UTLOT - Myth #2
Man has no instinct and women have no maternal instinct, therefore parents should never respond to their babies on the basis of their emotions or feelings about what is right or wrong, but rather on the basis of knowledge or wisdom.
Webster's dictionary defines ``instinct" as ``.... a pattern of response that is largely inborn or behavior based on reactions below the conscious level." The Bible makes it clear that man has a God-given sub-conscious knowledge of right and wrong known as his ``conscience." Webster defines ``conscience'' as ``the sense of moral goodness or badness of one's own conduct... together with a feeling of obligation to do right." In other words, on the basis of our conscience there are times when we will ``know" or ``feel" what the right thing to do is, even if we have no rational reason to explain why we feel that way. Romans 2:15-16 says ``For when Gentiles, who do not have the Law, do instinctively the things of the Law...they show the work of the Law is written on their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending themselves." (NASB)
Not only does the Bible clearly state that man has been given a conscience that will give him a gut-level feeling of what is right or wrong, the Bible also says that our conscience can be used to validate our behavior and protect us from the deceitfulness of ``worldly wisdom." II Cor 1:12 says ``our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves ... in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God 's grace."
Furthermore, the Bible also states that when we ignore our God-given conscience one of the results is a ``loss of natural affection" (see Romans 1:26, 3 I-KJV, and as a sign of the last days in II Tim. 3:3 KJV). It is also a serious sin to cause someone to act against his/her conscience (I Cor 8:9-13, for example), and violating or deadening our conscience is a serious offense against the Lord (I Tim 4:2, Titus 1:15). Our emotions or intuitive feelings about what should be done in a situation are not an enemy of the truth.
Objections: Are you saying then that parents should always react on the basis of their emotions?
No, absolutely not. The Bible points out that there is godly wisdom and worldly wisdom, and there are also godly emotions, reflecting God's character and worldly emotions, reflecting our own worldly desires and fears. However, there is no point in exalting reason and knowledge in opposition to feelings and conscience. Both will lead us astray if we are not sufficiently in touch with God's word and His Holy Spirit in order to be able to discern godliness from ungodliness.
We are saying that we cannot depend on our rational objective knowledge ``to lead us into all truth,"- only the Holy Spirit can do that (Jn. 16:13), in combination with God's word. I Cor 2: 13 says, ``We speak not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit," and also I Cor. 1:21 says that ``the foolishness of God is a wiser than man 's wisdom." James 3: 17-18 points out that many attributes of wisdom are not just knowledge but attitudes toward others: ``the wisdom that comes from heaven is ...pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and goodfruit, impartial and sincere." We must make it our goal not to be controlled by our intellect, but to be controlled by the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus heard that John the Baptist, his cousin and one of the few people who really understood who he was, had been beheaded, he left in a boat to find a solitary place. The crowds figured out where he was going and ran around the lake. Jesus clearly wanted to be alone to grieve and pray, yet ``when Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick." (John 14: 13-21) Even though he was God himself, Jesus put aside his own intentions, and his own intense needs at that time, in order to take care of the needs of the people. (Notice: Jesus is not being controlled by this relentless crowd... he is choosing to serve their needs because he is compassionate.)
``As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, 'This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go... buy themselves some food. ' Jesus replied, 'They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.'" Christ acted on his feeling of compassion even though the circumstances and rational thinking led the disciples to ``know" Jesus' conclusion was ``wrong." Also in Matt. 15:32 ``Jesus called his disciples to him and said ' I have compassion for these people... I do not want to send them away hungry' ... His disciples answered, 'Where can we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?'" God then provided the power needed to do the compassionate thing and feed the crowd against all earthly odds and reason, feeding 5000 men and their families from a few fish and a little bread. In John 14:23 we see that only after he had ministered to the needs of the crowd did Jesus return to his own need for solitude and prayer. In the world it is only reasonable that the crowds serve the master; however, in Christ, it is only compassionate that the Master serve the crowds. ``The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve..." Matthew 20:28. As parents, many of us are learning to be true servants for the first time.
There are many times as parents that we do not have the energy or power to act out compassion so we choose to act out of ``reason" or ``principle" instead. When this happens, our conscience tells us we are doing the wrong thing, but our minds silence our conscience and harden our hearts. Other people will also encourage you to harden your heart to your child, warning that your tiny baby is ``trying to control you" or that you will be ``child-centered" if you do not put your own needs as parents first. We need to learn to turn to the Lord at these times to receive the power to do the right thing, which is to be compassionate, like Jesus. In the parable of the Good Samaritan the only man who did the right thing was the one who was ``moved by compassion" (see Luke 10:33). Even though he went to tremendous expense of time and energy for a stranger, Jesus commended ``the one who had mercy on him" telling us to ``go and do likewise."
Do not be afraid to act on the basis of your God-given feelings of compassion and mercy toward your child. Jesus was angry at the religious leaders who were so intent on keeping the laws God Himself had given them that they neglected to live by the greatest laws of all to love God and to love your neighbor (fellow human) as yourself. In Mark 3: 1-6, when Jesus healed the man with the shriveled hand on the Sabbath, the religious leaders were indignant. Mark says: ``He [Jesus] looked around at them in anger, deeply distressed at the hardness of their hearts."
You can tell when you are ``hardening your heart" towards your child, and treating your child in a way that you yourself would not like to be treated. Perhaps you even suspect that your behavior is not loving, patient, and kind, nor controlled by the Holy Spirit. Take a hard look at yourself at these times and ask ``Why am I hardening my heart?" Are you believing myths about child-rearing (``your baby's crying is an attempt to control you")? Do you need to depend more on the Lord's power? Are you afraid because you don't know what to do? Are you angry because you must bear the responsibility for the child alone? Are you exhausted? Is your child ``suppose" to be asleep now according to the books? ``Blessed is the man who always fear the Lord, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble." Proverbs 28:14.
Are there worldly feelings or worldly wisdom that are keeping you from responding with compassion and empathy? Soften your heart and ask God for His power to do the compassionate thing. God will give you the supernatural power to be like Jesus and go the extra mile. ``My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay his lie down for his friends." Jn. 15:12