Moralistic Parenting

When the blockquote on a post about parenting reads:

Instead of the gospel of grace, we’ve given them daily baths in a ‘sea of narcissistic moralism.’

… in stark black, white and red you sit a little straighter in your seat and take notice.

Narcissistic Moralism

Narcissus

Are we simply training our children to be self-centered, moral people? Many of us as parents have fallen into the trap of emphasizing good behavior, as opposed to the Grace of God, in our raising up and training of our young ones. It is as if we have, to use the phrase from the article, turned God into Santa. He’s got a list and He’s checking it to see which of us are behaving badly.

Truly, it is difficult to remember to emphasize grace over good manners. Especially in the middle of the frozen food aisle when That’s My Boy won’t stop poking and teasing Attaboy. Or when Attaboy decides to just up and bite That’s My Boy as we enter church.

Really! It can be extremely difficult just getting the little angels with crooked halos to behave “normally.” To be good, for goodness’ sake.

It’s Not About The Law, Really.

4 So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. 5 When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. 6 But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit. – Romans 7:4-6

This is where we struggle most, as believers. We are captured and captivated by our human desire to simply go on auto-pilot. We can simply float through our daily lives if we have a good sense of what we can and can not do. Hence, the Law. But Christ obliterated and fulfilled the Law. It is as if He looked at the law and said, “That’s not a bad start, but it’s not nearly comprehensive enough. Listen to the Spirit. Talk with my Father. Study my Word. Be in community. Then you’ll begin to understand life as it is meant to be.”

Moralism makes it very easy for a check list of behavior to be drawn up and checked off… again, Santa’s naughty or nice list.

Do we really want our children only concerned about themselves? Do we really want our children to go through life checking off boxes as a way to determine their “good” behavior? Or should we be raising young adults that actually think and pray about their actions and how they affect those around them?

God is Not Santa, Only Our Father

One practice that I think is helping us stem the tide of moralism under our roof is that of getting our boys to see things from another’s perspective. While it is not perfect, we are seeing our young men begin to think about their actions, and the affects on others, before the actions manifest themselves. In some instances, our young men are even commenting on the selfish and rude behavior of other children and how it makes them feel.

This summer we are hoping to learn, as a family, about what it means to be concerned more for others than ourselves. The next step: how to better understand the depth and breadth of His grace.

5 Responses to Moralistic Parenting

  1. Thanks for resurrecting this post. Another good example of living in the tension. Behavior is the common standard but transformation is what God at work in us causes. If transformation is underway, desirable behavior may come as well although not always when we would prefer.

  2. rockceptionist I am so sorry that I missed this comment, Matt!

    I find moralism, in any form, to be particularly offensive. Moralism is what, in my opinion, sets up the feel and fear of being judgmental. And, while I admit to continuing to struggle with my own moralism, I recognize the damage to relationships it has and can cause. My natural inclination is to fall back to that checklist of what has been determined to be good and bad in my life.

    As in real estate and life, good intentions mean very little. It’s the actions and, more importantly, the heart stance driving those actions, that is ultimately important. Am I out for myself, at the expense of others? Unfortunately, my answer at times is yes, and that’s because self-centered is a natural state of being for me. It takes work to check my heart, and examine my motivations for my actions. 

    Conversely, am I doing “good things,” to feed my own narcissism? At times the answer continues to be yes.

    Both stances, “bad behavior” and “good behavior” are reprehensible for the same reason: I was behaving that way for myself, for my own gratification.

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