I was the kind of child that wanted to please my parents. Not all children are like that, as anyone who has more than one child knows! It is not better or worse to be compliant, easy-going, or submissive to authority. It may be easier for parents, but people pleasers like myself can get into trouble if they choose to please the wrong people!
In my case, it just made me feel good to have my parents approval and I felt very loved by them. As I matured and began to love my parents in return, I did not want to disappoint them. I was blessed that they loved me unconditionally and I did not have to strive for their love. Because they expressed their love for me verbally as well as through actions, I grew up feeling secure and valued. Looking back at pictures of myself, I was an odd looking child. (see above photo for irrefutable proof!) Yet I thought I was attractive. Imagine! My father would tell me how nice I looked, and I believed him.
The love I had for my parents kept me from doing many things as an adolescent that would have gotten me in big trouble. By nature I am an uninhibited person and I would do silly things just for fun, or for attention. I clearly remember NOT doing certain things because I knew my parents would be disappointed in me. I think of this as constraining love. In our large old dictionary, the definition of constrain is – to compel or oblige. The love I had for my parents, not fear of the consequences of disobedience, kept me from making some bad choices.
I hear my high school students talk about their weekends and sometimes they will say things like – “If my parents knew about this – they would KILL me!” or “My mom found out I lied, so I can’t go anywhere this weekend.” These students have no remorse for what they did – only that they got caught.
We must not get caught in the deceptive thought pattern that “if I love my child enough, they will not make wrong choices.” That is not true, look at Adam and Eve! Yet unconditional love is a powerful force for good. God so loved us that He sent His son, Jesus, to die for us. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s love came FIRST – not our feeble attempt to obey Him. When we love our children unconditionally, not based on what they do but WHO THEY ARE, we are laying the groundwork for constraining love. Love that does not want to disappoint.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NIV)
14 For Christ’s love compels (KJV constrains) us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.
God’s great and unconditional love for us should produce a love response from us that causes us to walk in obedience to our heavenly Father. Our love for God should be so great that we are compelled to do His will. What better example could we set for our children?