Maybe you’re thinking that I’m going to rant about President Obama and his tactics to give aid to those who feel they deserve it as Americans. Surprise! I’m refraining from this argument. Instead, I’m going to tackle something that hits more closely to home: entitlement to a parent’s approval.
Let me begin by saying this -- I grew up extremely blessed. My parents provided everything that I needed, and many times, everything that I wanted (to an extent, of course). I was never without “fashionable” clothes or the tools I needed to achieve in school, and when I turned 16, I got a car (it was 10 years old and had 200,000 miles on it, but it was nevertheless a car). In terms of material items, I had it all.
Yet, there was one thing I was lacking. Of course, it was the thing that I wanted most: my parents’ approval, their constant approval. I’m not trying to make my parents look bad; they were godly and supportive of my goals. Yet they weren’t the type of people who constantly reminded my sister and me how “proud” they were.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am a perfectionist. So, when I say I got straight A’s my entire life, I mean it. I was constantly setting curves on tests, earning awards, getting elected leader of clubs, all while playing sports, leading Bible studies, and maintaining an internship. No, I don’t know how I maintained this lifestyle, but that’s a different story and blog post (and to clarify, I’m not trying to brag . . . I had other issues going on, so by no means was I perfect).
So, when my parents wouldn’t express their approval, I would ask myself, “What more do my parents want?” And that spiraled into a deep resentment toward them. I quickly got frustrated as I began to think that my parents were expecting too much from me. It was hard for me to watch my friends’ parents praise them for earning B’s when I barely even got a “Congrats” for earning A’s.
On the other side of the spectrum, my parents were quickly getting frustrated because they thought I was expecting too much from them. As I mentioned, they gave me everything I needed and more, so they had fulfilled their parental duties. Thus, in their thinking, my frustration toward them was out of line.
I expected too much from them, and they expected too much from me. So, for the last two year of high school, my parents and I were in this tug-of-war over who was right and who was wrong. And when I went to college, I was angry at them: Why couldn’t my parents just be happy with me? I was getting great grades, and unlike so many other students I knew, I wasn’t drinking or doing drugs. So what was the problem -- which party was expecting too much?
And then when I went to college and began seeking the Word for an answer, I realized something: Nowhere in the Bible does the Lord command parents to approve of their children if they do something right; nowhere does the Bible mention praising children for excelling in school, work, or leadership. Why? Because it’s expected of Christians (and it should be of all children) to do these things. It’s not praiseworthy if a child doesn’t drink underage; it’s expected! Ephesians 6:4 tells fathers to bring their children up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” By not always praising me, my parents instilled in me expectations. Thus, getting good grades was not a bonus; it was a foundation.
I think children, especially nowadays, feel they are entitled to praise for any bit of good they do. I should know -- I was one of those children. They think they are entitled to praise from their parents, not just in the form of words but also in the form of material items or money. We have replaced the word love with praise -- if my parents don’t praise me, they don’t love me. This, of course, is false. The Bible is very clear, however, about one thing -- children must honor and obey their parents. Honoring parents comes with recognizing the difference between love and approval.