Power in the Absence of Words

In the first part (Power in Words), I outlined three areas that my son and I struggle in our speech: Boasting, Correcting, and Tricking. Here are the last two areas: Manipulating and Ignoring.


"Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person."  Colossians 4:6
Is there any more of annoying sound than a child whining? Probably – an adult whining.

And that’s the point of parenting. We are not raising children as much as we are building future men and women. It is much easier to teach, correct, rebuke, and train them when they are young, then them having to unlearn negative behaviors when they are older. And certainly, this is much better than them dealing with the effects of a lifetime of anti-social behavior.

Most kids (and adults, me included) tend to manipulate others through pouting and whining, instead of using words and conversation And we train kids to do this when we give in to their emotional manipulation. I think we are all guilty of that.

But what’s often harder is when children learn to manipulate passive-aggressively. I joked about this when my older son “let” his brother have the sleeper sofa when we stayed in a hotel. To him, the end (“everyone was happy”) justified the means (self-serving manipulation).

But instead of asking his brother to switch beds, my older son made himself look selfless and loving to his brother. Yes, the result was good, but the method was self-centered, not others-centered.

Another example of passive manipulation is when we are play games that simultaneously require cooperation and competition (our latest favorite is Settlers of Catan). My son will work to get other players to work against each other, but then claim that he is trying to help. And all the while, he claims innocence and gets upset when people work against him (which is another form of emotional manipulation).

There is nothing wrong with asking for things, or especially with doing good things. However, we must ask and do for the right reasons (to glorify God and to bless others), instead of elevating and benefiting ourselves.


"A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity."  Proverbs 17:17

So, I’ve given four ways that my son (and, sigh, I) hurt others and dishonor God with the things we say. But we can damage our relationships just as much when we avoid communication. (Sometimes manipulation can be a former of non-communication, too.)

I think of when he is playing with his brother, and the other one is saying something or asking. This son continues to play, while maybe giving short answers (usually “no”). Instead, he needs to stop what he’s doing (esp if you are playing video games or with Legos), and look at the person.

By continuing with his task (what he wants to do), he is not showing love to others. Or, he may get frustrated and walk away from the other person. He needs to use words to pursue and engage others.

To ignore or to walk away is what we call being passive, which is the core sin of all men. We men would rather not deal with an issue than spend the emotional energy to engage people. I do the same things, and I need to get better at that, too. (After all, if you ask my kids to imitate me, all of them will pretend to type on a laptop and ignore people around me.)

The Core Issue: Pride  

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves."  Philippians 2:3

When it comes to how my son (and all of us) misuse our speech, the core issue is about pride and control. When I boast, correct, trick, manipulate, or ignore someone, I am exerting power over them.

It’s not about being right, and it’s definitely not about helping someone. It’s about elevating myself above them, and closer to God’s level.

That’s why the sins of the tongue are so dangerous, because we are proclaiming (actively or passively) that we are like God. That was the original sin of Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-14), and that was the original sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3).

So why do I make this a big deal with my son, and why am I sharing it with you? Because it’s a big deal to God. I love my son, as God loves me, and I don’t want him to fall into the same pattern of sin (and the ensuing damage) as I have.
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works."  Hebrews 10:24

I Must Lead, I Must Change 

As I disciple my children, I must remember to do it in the context of the gospel. I don’t want to lead my son towards moralism, where he says or does the “right” things to please me or to try to earn favor with God.

I want to lead my son towards Jesus, and to a Spirit-empowered, life-changing relationship with his Creator and Savior.

Even more, I must remember to walk side-by-side with him. He must know that I am a sinner in need of grace, just like him. (For more on this topic, check out this Parenting Conversation.) When I see the sins of my children, it reminds me of my own sin.
"For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God."  James 3:7-9

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**image courtesy of ilco via Free Images

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