My grandson who is just under 2 years old, takes no thought to whether choosing silence hurts someone's feelings, leaves us hanging as if liars, or any number of other polite reasons for responses. He simply makes a choice and stays silent if he wants to. Let me explain.
Yesterday, when he came to visit, he discovered a couple of activities that Jimmy and I had bought for him. $1 items that were teaching tools. Also, his Mom had spent a gift card that was given to him, and so he had a plethera of new things to do. He made short work of shooting the disk from the squeezy thing. He threw the puzzle all over the place. And he pointed at the pictures in the color book and mimiced every word I said. His favorite was "Bapple." Thereafter, when we opened the book he pointed at the pictures and repeated what he had learned. "Bapple, Tuck, Herse, bown, urnge, and wibbet." What? you don't talk baby? Then we set up his new soft baseball on our makeshift ball tee, which was strategically placed at a perfect height for him to swing and hit it. He put the bat on his shoulder, then brought it down level with the ball and whap! The ball went sailing. He delightfully hit it over and over.
Later that day when his Dad came by, we wanted to show him all the things Ryder had been doing. He was OK with shooting the disk at his Dad's face and laughing about it. He did point at a few words in the book and say them, but was done with that in just a jiffy. So we pulled out the bat and ball, and implored him to hit the ball and show Daddy how good he could hit it. Not once did he put the same effort in that he had while playing earlier. Then when we tried to get him to say some of his new words that he had been rolling off earlier --silence. He was done with all this performing for his Dad! NO amount of encouragement had him playing with the confidence he had earlier. His Dad was disappointed.
I was however, suddenly convicted in my heart of how wrong I was badgering the baby to perform for his Dad. The Lord reminded me of an occasion when I had learned that it is sometimes best to just remain silent when pursuasive persons try to manipulate you.
Here's the story: Once a preacher called every person to come to the altar to confess their sins. By ritual of having been manipulated to obey from this preacher on previous occasions, some of the congregation went obediently to the altar and were immediately on their knees. Somewhat new to this church, I thought, Oh my, that's a lot of people who suddenly knew of unconfessed sin." Not satisfied, the preacher continued to convince the remainder of the congreation that they were guilty of something, and they needed to be in the altar. As he called off one sin after another he said something like - I know some of you need to repent of "whatever" sin. A long time passed as he continued to badger the concregation to come to the front. It was evident after a while he would not be content until every single person was in the altar. He hammered at them and one by one the congregation approached the altar and kneeled. There began to arise a crying which elevated to a wailing and I tried to consider that perhaps this pastor knew there was a genuine need, but I didn't understand why they remained in the altar, Why were the people not getting up and going back to their seats? It was as if these people had never found forgiveness for sins before, and didn't know how to attain peace. It was awkward.
The result was that bit by bit, the preacher coaxed every single person to the altar but my husband and me. The praying and crying and condemnation continued for at least 15 minutes more. Ane we remained silently standing in the pews. I could not help but look at my husband and say, "Don't any of these people take care of this at home? Do you feel a need to go down there?" He made a funny remark of some kind, which indicated, no, he was all 'fessed up. We honestly felt we were up on our repentance issues and didn't need to perform for this preacher. Not being led by God, we merely stayed in our place in silence. Needless to say we didn't please the preacher.
No amount of persuasion had been able to convince the baby to perform his newly learned skills for his Dad. In fact the more we cajoled, the more he turned his back on us in silence. This is inborn in all babies. I have never seen a single one who, when you wanted them to show what they had learned for the day, would not refuse to do the skill until they decided that is was of social benefit to them. The fact, that all babies do this, assures me that it is a God–given gift. It is a gift of discernment which is given for a reason, but one that manipulative persons will try to drill out of your child’s defense systems for the rest of their lives.
Seeing Ryder resist reminds me that no Christian should “act out” their Christianity as a performance to please anyone else. The sweet learning experiences should be shared, and often may be learned in the presense of loving partners on the journey. Joining Christian friends in prayer is a Holy thing. But so many elements of our Christian walk are between just us and God. One on One. Being “prayed up” as some say, is a confidence that we may have which frees us to hear God’s instructions. Being convinced that you are in God’s will need never be a decision someone else makes for you.
When Ryder playfully returned to his new word/picture/color correlations, by himself, it was a re-inforcement for a new skill. He was joyful, and willing to participate. But when the action of pointing to the words, or using the bat to hit his new ball, in order to perform for his dad became something I was coaxing him to do he resisted and rightfully so. I later became convicted of how wrong I was. Because we were pressing him to, his confidence in the act was in not a joyful experience any more. I wanted his Dad to see him, but I should have just let him play, and allow him to choose when and how he showed his Dad. I am not sure he remembered everything from the day before. All our pressure could have damaged his confidence, which came merely from the joy of learning, while playing. But when the actions became a performance to a command, it served no purpose, except to please us and yield to our manipulation. That’s a bad thing to teach kids. It sets them up for abuse. As sad as we were that he was unwilling to show his dad, it was best to not make him feel bad for it. But when his Mom came in, it became a game again. She joined in and encouraged him, brought the fun back to it. She actually stood over him and helped him swing his bat, encouraged him and applauded him…he was back to his childlike joy of learning. His acts became natural. In no way coerced. (Please recognize this situation as different than teaching obedience.)
If, you find yourself being a performing Christian, (confined to performing Christian acts according to someone else’s version of Godliness,) then, find the Holy Spirit courage to search your heart, and know your standing with God. Then, don’t follow the lead of that person. If your Christian leadership does not encourage you to a point of joy, and peace of mind, and a love of the Christian life…something is wrong! If they don’t applaud your personal interaction with the Spirit, and rejoice in your growth, at whatever level, something is wrong.
Badgering people misrepresents God. It wrongfully teaches children that it is what God will also expect of them. Sadly, they will give up the joy of learning at the Spirit’s knee, and will await the badgering minister to drag them along. Unholy. In every way. Properly sharing your Christian experience is healthy, but is free from the ties of manipulation.
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16
Lord Grant me the wisdom to know how my actions will affect those around me. Help me to be gently pursuasive when it will encourage Godliness, but keep me from unholy manipulation. Thank you for the gift to know when to stand silently firm. AMEN
P.S. This is a healing moment for me. I hope someone else will escape the bonds of memories when God releases you from the power of someone's maniputlation. May God grant it for anyone who is struggling with it.