When we lived in Virginia, I volunteered with a middle school youth group. During the talk / discussion times, inevitably someone would be wiggly, giggly, or distracted with a neighbor. But there were no shaming stern glances or admonitions. Instead, the youth pastor would invite such a one, gently, to go out in the hall if they needed to get themselves together again. It was firm — but truly no sense of shame or scorn at all. It felt so kind, so compassionate, so respectful of the reality of being a kid, so ready to look for a solution instead of for blame.
I would love to live that kind of respect and compassion at all times. Especially in parenting, but really, at all times, with everyone.
But often enough, my first reaction to various behaviors is disapproval, even disgust. Scorn and contempt come more easily to me than I would like them to. At times — more often than I’d like — the scorn even feels like righteous indignation. I feel so certain that the behavior I find so disgusting or revolting or reprehensible or appalling really is that horrid, and — honestly — so must be the person doing the behavior.
It happens more often in parenting — how powerfully many of us have absorbed scorn and shame and revulsion from our culture’s typical ideas about childish misbehavior, especially if echoed in our personal histories.
It’s not always an intense feeling — not always some gigantic towering monster of hatred. Sometimes contempt is snide, little, hardly noticed, just a sniff and a wrinkle of the nose.
It is not easy to escape from under scorn, even in oneself. Living out of compassion and respect is not as easy as deciding to or desiring to.
Some of it is a process of changing our thinking, applying new thoughts to try to shift our perceptions and interpretations of things. The more we understand child development, for example, or how children’s emotions work, the easier it can be to shift our thinking about how we interpret what our kids do and say.
We also need to work on our emotions, not just our thinking. Practicing compassion and respect for ourselves is a good start. Allowing ourselves to feel, to have the complete experience of a feeling. Making time and space for doing good things for ourselves. Seeking out relationships that will feed our souls. Worship and prayer. Therapy. Refraining from judging ourselves. Not even judging ourselves when we notice we’re being judgmental again. Mindfulness.
Anyway… sometimes I find myself feeling scorn or contempt toward Amy, and others, and having a hard time getting out of it again. Working on it.