Monday, November 19, 2012


I was just thinking about how the function of pain... 

Romans 1…remember? Says that everything we wanna know about God is evident/obvious thru what He's made because it's clearly seen in the Creation and in us.

So, just take a look at the human brain. We know it's made by God...designed by God...and looking at it either from a Creationist perspective or even from the findings of evolutionary scientists they all come to the same conclusions about how our brains come wired. Our brains are pre-wired to do a lot of things...and one thing it's pre-wired to do is avoid pain.

This is God's loving way of helping us. And, as the Bible says, "He's placed the truth on our hearts." He's wired certain things into us for our own good. 

Another thing that science has shown is that social isolation activates the same area of the brain as physical pain. Being cut off from others doesn't just figuratively or poetically "hurt"'s literal. 

So, following God's design of pain avoidance would "save us" from so much in life, wouldn't it? Think of all the negative consequences to sin in life…they're all painful! For example...

Stealing has painful consequences because it hurts those who are stolen from and can result in social isolation (jail)…

Adultery has painful consequences because it destroys relationships and separates us from those we love…

Jealousy has painful consequences because it isolates from the one you're jealous of…

Lying causes relationship troubles...

...and so on...

All those things have negative or painful consequences in our relationships, personal lives, and bodies (health via stress) true? And, so the natural design inside us to avoid pain should keep us away from things that cause us pain...and on a daily basis this would be one way God would be saving us from our own sin! (Paul referred to being saved as a process...not a 1 time thing) It's a beautiful safety design by God, really! Like a permanent helmet or seat belt! 

Christian parents wanna parent as God desires. They want to know "What is God's will for my child?" "What is God's plan for my child?" "What is God's will for me as a parent?"

Again…Romans 1 has the answer…and I believe most parents would agree that it's pretty obvious we parents are wired to be vigilant of our children's safety. We all feel that protectiveness and worry about kids running out into the street,we strap them into car seats, tell them to "be careful" when playing, etc. That protectiveness is always there. So, we're wired to protect and they are wired to avoid pain. Pretty good combination.

As society changes so do the dangers. So, our children aren't necessarily "wired" to look at a stove burner and see that it's red and red = pain. Really, red = pretty and "touch me!" So, our children need taught what dangers are in the world they've been born into.

That's where we parents come in...God's done half the work for us and all we have to do is work with it. It's a beautiful design.

So, our child is born in the age of electricity and gadgets. Our child lives in a house with an electric stove. The child touches a burner when it's on. We hear the child's cry, we respond and we tend to do two main things. We attempt to minimize/stop the pain and help the child understand what has just happened, "See! When it's all bright, shiny, pretty and red it's HOT and OWWIE! Hurts!!! No touchy!!!" 

The parent's part in the child's life is to minimize pain and heal the natural consequences of their bad choices…and point them toward the truth. 

It's beautiful. We're just like God…the healer…protector…savior…and source of truth for our children! All because we're made in His image and all with the goal of pointing our child toward God!

But, now…imagine that the child goes back and touches that red hot burner again! And, again! And AGAIN! What if the child would touch that hot stove purposely every time you turned it on!? Eventually, you would likely take the child to a psychologist because you'd realize something is very wrong!

Why would it be wrong?

It's just not natural to willingly engage in something that's painful! It's not natural and not God's design at all to willingly do things that hurt us. God's wired our brains to avoid pain and we all know that even without a degree in neuroscience. If our child was willingly touching that hot stove every day we'd just know something was wrong. 

Imagine also that child…touching the hot stove and being burned every day and not reacting at all to it! If the child was having no reaction to the pain, then, the alarm bells would really be going off, wouldn't they? You would really know that something is very VERY wrong with the child! Right? 

Most "Christian" parenting books tell parents that it is God's will for them to strike their children on the butt to cause pain to teach them lessons. The logic is the same as in the hot stove - the teaching believes that it is teaching the child that if they do "X" and they get pain and so they will be deterred from doing whatever it is ever again.

This philosophy and teaching does have an element of truth mixed into it because yes, the brain is wired to avoid pain. But, let's look at "what pain" and "what the brain is identifying to avoid."

(Oh, I get it...element of truth...haha)

In the example of touching the hot stove, the lesson learned by the child's choice/actions is touching the hot stove = pain. This is a direct cause/effect lesson. Not all lessons are so straightforward and direct. Some cause/effect relationships between bad activities need help in being pointed out because the effect is much less obvious or direct.

For example, "Don't pull the dog's ears because you will hurt the dog and make the dog turn mean" is a lesson that a child can't learn by pulling the dog's ears once. They must be reasoned with and taught that lesson because little children don't have the mental capacity for "empathy" and the result of the "dog turning mean" could take years. To help a child learn this cause/effect relationship to choices/actions like this takes a lot of patience and time. One disciplinary moment in a situation like this can take 5-15 minutes because of the time it takes to help the child understand what you want them to see.

In the case of the hot stove, obviously the cause/effect is "child chooses to touch = pain of being burned" and the child learns that quickly.

In the case of pulling the dog's ears the cause/effect is much more complex and the parent is required to help the child see that.

But, most Christian parenting books and Christian parents believe that the proper way to demonstrate cause/effect to the child in the 2nd more complex case is to provide the pain themselves in the form of a spanking/smacking.

If it was a question on a school paper they see it as:

Burn is to hot stove as…spanking is to pulling dog's ears

But, that's not correct.

In order for that to be true it would have to read, "Spanking is to touching hot stove as spanking is to pulling dog's ears."

When you look at it that way you should be able to see the problem.
The correct answer would be this, "Burn is to hot stove as...mean hurt dog is to pulling dog's ears"

"The parent's part in the child's life is to minimize pain and heal the natural consequences of their bad choices…and point them toward the truth."
Neither of these things happen when the parent takes on the form of the consequence. The parent unnaturally becomes the amplifier or source of pain (rather than minimizer/healer) and the parent points the child toward the punishment...

Parents who become the source of the pain ruin the child's opportunity to learn the true cause and effect relationship to their actions and pain by skipping the "discipling" part and opting instead for "punishment". It's swift. It's fast. It seems to work. 

Worse than that...What is REALLY happening when a child is being taught to willingly submit to spankings?

When I was "taught" to spank in Sunday School class (that place where we learn about the savior…the prince of peace and author of love and life!) I was taught that any resistance on the child's part is equivalent to "rebellion" and must be "dealt" with. Usually with additional swats or a 2nd spanking.

But, if a child who would touch a hot stove willingly and not react is a sign of a child who needs to see a psychiatrist…what in the world do we think we're teaching kids when we follow thru with the spanking philosophy that expects children to willingly submit to painful stimuli with no protest? We're failing to teach our children cause and effect as God wishes them to learn based on how He designed the world to work…and we're unwiring what God has wired in the child's brain with regards to pain response.

We're parenting against God's design!

For a child to walk willingly into a room where they are about to be hit/hurt/inflicted with pain (spanked) and not do anything "defensive" (like put their hands over their butts or say "no!!!") and then to react almost thankfully and give a hug and not stomp off or cry loudly…WHAT is that doing to their brains which are wired BY GOD to RESIST and AVOID pain!?

The system God put into the child's brain for their safety, protection, health, and futures…is knocked awry by parents who are not really thinking things thru! And, rather than learning to avoid "the action" due to its natural painful consequence…the child ultimately learns to avoid the parent because the parent is the source of the pain. And, by extension then, Christian children learn that if parents = pain…so does God. They learn to believe that when bad things happen in life it's because "God is punishing them."

Remember God said…"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge."

So, a child who is trained to ignore pain and not taught proper cause and effect for their actions and taught only to expect punishment is going to be at risk for all types of dangers. And, mostly because they will always be in danger of not being able to equate their actions and choices with potential harm…

They will only be able to look at their actions and choices in light of the fear of potential punishment…and without the direct supervision of the punisher (thru whom they look to for all "consequences") the child will be lost. That child will never be free. And, "it was for freedom that Christ set us free…" 

I've said it before...
I'd rather that my child fears running out into the street because he fears getting hit by a car...not by me. I won't always be there in the street...but the cars always will be...

Which does your child fear? 

Matthew 18
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

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