Kyle had his ACT on a Saturday. The night before we ended up in a fuss, and I was fuss-trated. (See what I did there?! Ha!) I went to bed irritated and I told myself, “Do not get up and wish him luck or make him food tomorrow morning. Stay in bed. Let him figure it out himself.” How tough am I? So, I wrote him a sweet note, reminded him to remember his calculator, bagged up pencils, mints (my mom always told me to have mints for tests 🤷🏻‍♀️), and set out some breakfast. Yep, that’ll show him. 🙄

The next morning I heard Kyle get up. He even peeked into our room to see if we were going to get up. He text me, “Are you going to come out here?” I stayed in bed. I was awake. And I hated feeling so removed. I rationalized it with, “Well, he needs to figure things out on his own.” and “If he is going to be rude to me he needs to realize I’m not going to just keep doing things, or being kind.” Yes, I am in my 40s. 🤦🏽‍♀️

As I sat and had my coffee that morning I heard again something God had been asking me over the past couple of weeks, “Are you doing this from a place of peace or as a punishment?”

See a few other situations had been popping up and I had been making these decisions about what I would and wouldn’t do, and God kept asking me, “Are you doing this from a place of peace or as a punishment?” I had been trying to make a case that it was both. I felt good/at peace, about my passive aggressive punishment. But I knew my motives were off, I knew I wasn’t in line with God’s heart.

Later that day we met up with Kyle. He had a great morning, felt decent about the test, had some jokes about the proctor. He was in a great mood. It was almost as if he hadn’t noticed my absence. I apologized for not coming out and wishing him luck. “Yeah, I thought that was weird.” and we all just moved on.

Recognizing how and why we do things is not easy. We remove ourselves from relationships, and it can be difficult to tell if it’s from the need for legitimate boundaries or in an effort to let them “see how things go without me.” We back off at work, or quit a job, and it can be tricky to tell if it’s because we are realigning priorities and allowing others to take responsibly or so they will come begging after realizing the world stopped without you. There is a world of difference between “I’ll show them.” and “I’ll love them,” but we can easily convince ourselves one is the other.

Reading in Philippians:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. (Chapter 2) Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Chapter 4)”

With Kyle, part of me was like “If you treat me this way, then I’ll treat you that way,” but is that really parenting? Is that even how we are supposed to be human-ing? Is that how we are supposed to treat anyone?

The irony comes in the fact that most all of us long for peace, but we often behave as if some type of punishment will get us there.

I’m trying to slow down and be honest with myself, allowing God to ask, “Are you doing this from a place of peace, or punishment?” And then I’m trying, even when I feel like someone needs to “learn a lesson” or “see how something feels” to consider more what love requires of me in the moment. How can I let my “gentleness be evident,” and look more “to the interests of others?” It’s not that I can’t have wants or needs, I can have all the “prayers and petitions” I want, but presented to God, with gratitude.

There is a reason God’s peace “transcends all understanding.” It is rarely what we will naturally aim for, and the world can’t make much sense of it; but consider, when you sit with your behavior, your reactions to that situation where you are “punishing” someone, does your heart and mind feel guarded? Do you feel a little closer to Jesus? I think we know the difference, but, ugh! It can be so tough.

Peace or Punishment

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