Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The "Little" White Lie

"It's no big deal."
"No one would care."
"I'm only protecting him/ her."
"It's not hurting anyone or anything."
"No one needs to know about that."
"It's just a little fib.  At least I am not killing people."

These are the rationalizations that echo in our minds and hearts when we make the decision to tell a lie. 

I understand that no one wants to hurt someone's feelings when they ask, "Do these pants look good on me?"  But, this is not what I am talking about.  I am talking about a good (bad) old-fashioned lie.

As a parent, I am having to deal with this subject.  Just this week, I had a "family meeting" with my kids after I was informed about a conversation my youngest son had at a friend's house.  Essentially, he and his friend were talking about lying.  I am not sure exactly how it came up, but my son said something to the effect of, "I don't tell lies very often...but when I do, I get away with it." He's still trying to pry his size 4 Reebok out of his mouth.

If that wasn't bad enough, he went on to justify these fibs by saying that lying "isn't that big of a sin."  He said there are much worse things he could be doing than lying...almost as if he's doing us a FAVOR by "only" lying! Deep breath. 

I wasn't present when he had this conversation, but it was relayed to my wife, who in turn filled me in.  The string of emotions I felt ranged from disappointment to anger to disbelief to sadness.  And, while my initial tendency was to get upset with him, more than anything else this discovery led me to think more deeply of my role as a parent.

One morning this week, I drove my son to school, and I brought up this not-so-fun subject.  I explained to him what I had heard, and he pretty much admitted what he said.  I asked him if he said that lying wasn't that big of a sin, and he also admitted that to me.  Instead of body-slamming him and screaming to the top of my lungs, I decided to use this as a teachable moment.  I told him that "sin is sin," and that ALL sin is wrong, and it makes our hearts yucky.  

I proceeded to say that while sin is sin, that the consequences of our sins depend on the violation (I used more 4th-grade friendly words for him).  Lying is a sin.  Murder is a sin.  Adultery is a sin. Idol worship is a sin.  The penalty for my transgression will vary greatly from situation to situation.  But, while on the surface lying may seem like a "small sin," it has the potential to be just as devastating as any other.

I told my little boy that developing a pattern of lying behavior is not a road he wants to travel. I asked him what can happen when he lies, and gets away with it.  He had some great answers!  First, his friends and teachers could label him as "the kids who lies."  Second, he could begin to lie more and more.  Third, he would have to humble himself and apologize and ask for forgiveness.  Next, he would lose credibility with the people who matter to him the most. Finally, he would lose privileges.

Obviously, the list could go on and on, but I think my little buddy got the point.  And, while the topic of sin and lying is never a fun one to deal with, I must say that having these frank conversations with my family has truly been a highlight of my week.

My eyes need to be opened to what my kids are facing.  And, they also need to be opened to my role and responsibilities as a parent - to love and train my kids to not just believe in Jesus, but to be like him.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Let 'em Play

A few years ago I had the privilege of meeting sports psychologist Jack Llewellyn.  He had spoken at our staff meeting on a couple occasions, and he had given us each one of the books he had written as a parting gift.  One of those books was entitled Let 'em Play, which was written to parents of kids who play youth sports.

Being a dad of two boys who play baseball and basketball, I was very interested to read the book.  In a nutshell, Dr. Jack claims that having kids participate in ultra-competitive sports at a very young age is likely a bad thing.  First, it can put too much pressure on them.  Second, it can burn them out.  Third, they don't have as much time to participate in other sports or activities.  Fourth, it often turns sensible parents into monsters.  And, fifth, you as a parent leave less margin in your own life.

I enjoyed the book so much, and believed in what he shared to the point that I asked him if he would get me an additional ten copies of the book.  I gave each family on my baseball team a copy of the book to read for themselves.

That was part of the reason that we waited until age 12 for my oldest to participate in travel baseball.  I knew the time commitment involved - both for him and for me (as well as my wife).  I also had heard and read about so many young athletes who quit playing before high school because they just wanted some of their life back.  They spent ten months non-stop playing 100+ games with no time for anything - friends, family gatherings, church, other hobbies.  I didn't want that to become my family.

I think back to when I was a kid.  I was one of the better baseball players and basketball players during my time.  On average, I would play 12 regular season baseball games, and maybe another 6-8 All-Star games, from age 10 up to age 14.  So, that was less than 20 games total! For basketball, I played eight regular season games, and a tournament at the end of the year.  So, maybe 11-12 games total.  In all, I played in 30 contests in a given year for two sports!

Today, some kids are playing in excess of 120 games if they are playing travel baseball and competitive basketball.  That doesn't take into consideration the practices.  This leaves little time for anything else.  Further, it truly can get them exhausted before they ever enter high school - the years that TRULY matter most when preparing to play at a competitive level (if you hope to play in college).

Most of all, I want my kids to have fun. As a parent, I want them to excel and I push them to do their very best.  But, I can get carried away.  

Recently, I was playing basketball with my two sons in the driveway.  I was wanting them to work on dribbling properly, squaring their shoulders up to the basket when they shoot, pivoting and bounce-passing to their teammate.  What I was instructing them to do was absolutely correct.  But, sometimes my timing couldn't be worse.  My kids just wanted to have fun with dad in the driveway. And, I almost missed it.

I remember taking the ball out and "checking it" with my older son.  I was harping on his younger brother for not doing something the correct way, and his older brother says, "It's OK, dad.  We're just playing for fun."  His words pierced my heart and about knocked me over.  I felt so ashamed of myself for spending these 15-20 minutes I had with them pointing out everything they were doing wrong instead of just enjoying our time together on the "court."

In the end, Dr. Jack is right.  We just need to "let 'em play."  There's a time for hard work - but it doesn't have to happen in the driveway with dad all the time.