The Boys' Growing Up in the Lord

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Question

How best do I deal with an argumentative mother, who, however hard I try to remain calm, provokes me to say un-Christ like things toward her. All the grief I get from her and the rest of my family just affects me in a negative way and just leaves me giving up generally on life. Then I foolishly look for consultation in sinful things, which just make matters worst. She is just bitter and upset in her life and does not know what good parent responsibilities are. Plus she always insults me out of spite. I know I am not even a bad child. I'm not writing this horrible description of her just to complain, but I seriously just want to know what is the best thing for me do because all previous methods I have tried have not worked. Should I just runaway after I take my exams? Nothing is holding me back.


Answer

I'm not certain how old you are, but I am certain that unless you are an older teenager (18 or older) you are going to find that running away is going to make your life worse than it currently is. There are so many things that we take for granted when we are teenagers that we never realize is being supplied by our parents. Getting started on your own is not easy and in most places the laws don't allow a teenage to enter into contracts so things like buying a car or renting a room is usually not possible.

You are correct that being a parent doesn't make a person a good parent. You can't change your mother, but you can keep this in mind when you are older and become a parent. Then you have a chance to change your family's future by learning and being a good parent for your children. And do keep this in mind: For all her faults, she did manage to get one son mostly raised who is a pretty good kid.

So let's discuss how you can survive the upcoming years until you are old enough to get out on your own. Since I don't have details and I don't know what you have tried, I'm limited to general advice. If she is insulting you for doing what is right, then in a backward way she is complimenting you. "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake" (Matthew 5:11). Take note that the reviling is over things that are not true about you. "If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified" (I Peter 4:4). Thus, the way to handle it is to look at what is being said. If you know it is false, then it doesn't apply to you. Think about silly she is making herself look by accusing others of things don't apply. But whatever you do, don't take it personally.

Another thing to be aware of is that when you are a teenager and your brain is rewiring itself for adult thinking, you go through a phase where you can't accurately read body language. The result is that teenagers will tend to assign extreme emotions to others because they miss the clues that soften what is being said. You eventually grow out of this, but do keep in mind that you might be overreacting to your mother. I'm not saying this is true in your case, but I want you to know that it can happen.

Words hurt but still they are just words. If your mother is in a bad mood, perhaps it would be a good thing to take a walk, visit a friend, or go talk with your preacher for a little while. Take yourself out of the line of fire and give her (and you) a chance to calm down a bit. You don't want to let your anger flare up because then you stop thinking so clearly. "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20).

This brings up another point. Sometimes people repeat things or say them loudly because they are under the impression that they are not being heard. They have the mistaken idea that they can force another person to listen. Therefore, one way to calm your mother down is to put everything down, look her in the eye and give feedback to her that you are listening to what she is saying. If she has a good point acknowledge it. If you disagree with it, at a minimum give her some feedback that you understood what she is saying.

One danger that can arise is that a person isn't wrong all the time. But we can condition ourselves to automatically reject what someone else says just because that person said it. Good criticism aims to make the other person a better person. Few people enjoy having their weaknesses exposed. Rather than admit that they have a problem, it is "obviously" the criticizer who is having the problem. Thus Solomon states, "A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke" (Proverbs 13:1) and "A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, nor will he go to the wise" (Proverbs 15:12). Bad criticism often points out the perceived flaws in a person, but never contains any suggestion for fixing the problem or encouragement to do better.

A wise person will examine each rebuke that he receives. Is it pointing to something that he is doing wrong? Does it contain at least a nugget of truth? If it is inaccurate, is the misunderstanding due to something I am doing or, perhaps, not doing? A wise person knows it is dangerous to dismiss a rebuke just because he doesn't like it. "He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Proverbs 29:1). Instead, he examines whether there is something that can be changed to improve either himself or how he is perceived. "Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you" (Proverbs 9:8). Or, as David said, "Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked" (Psalm 141:5).

Thanks for replying with a long message. I am not entirely sure how, maybe it was the Holy Spirit, but I already sorted out all my problems with my mum. Yesterday I did the things you wrote about and it worked. Every time I receive critcism I do listen to it and see if that person may have a point.

But it really annoys me when people say I am argumentative, a badly misbehaving person or an attention seeker. I have gotten in serious trouble at school all my life, even since I was young just because people don't understand me and the way I think. They have tried several times to refer me to a psychiatrist just because I don't reason like other people, so I must be the one in the wrong because they can't be. I am a very deep thinker and I always reflect on my behavior. I know when I have been in the wrong, and I will apologize when I know I have done something wrong. But often when I know I am not in the wrong, I'm the one who apologizes just to end the conflict, and it is so annoying.

People always call me rude, but most of the time I am not even aware what I'm saying can be seen as rude. I am just pointing out some facts but sometimes, even when I know I'm being rude, I don't mean it in a mean way. For example, I might just say some girl is overweight but I don't mean it in a nasty way. I'm just pointing out an observation I made, but I know this is inappropaite talk, so I have tried to think about what I will say before I say it.

Thinking differently is not bad. Most of the new, creative ideas come from people who think differently. However, I gather from what you are saying that you don't always exercise good manners. For example, just because you think of something, it doesn't mean it is always a good thing to say it, even if it happens to be true. "A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart" (Proverbs 18:2). Thus, to be a wise person, you have to not only think about what is right but also think about how what you say will be received by another person. Using your example, a girl who is overweight knows it and probably doesn't like it. To have it mentions would make her further embarrassed and bringing up the obvious doesn't benefit her. Hence, it would be best not to say anything about it.

I gather, too, that while you think about your behavior, it tends to be after the fact instead of in advance. In words, it is usually better not to say anything than to say the wrong thing. "He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive" (Proverbs 17:27-28). Not everything that might look good at the first really is good; thus, you need to think in advance. "The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps. A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages and is self-confident" (Proverbs 14:15-16).

It is not a bad thing to stop an argument when you have the ability to do so. "It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel" (Proverbs 20:3).