“Don’t give your attention to the aggressor . . . “

“Attend to the injured party instead.” (119-120).

I’m still reading Faber and Mazlish, but now I’ve moved onto “Siblings Without Rivalry.”  And again, I find concepts that extend far beyond the child realm into How To Deal In A Loving And Kind Fashion With Humanity, Stupid.  Well, the Stupid is just for me because seriously, why haven’t I thought of these things before?

I’m becoming familiar with a lot of situations that are fairly unjust in the church.  As with families, why do I save up my most cranky and unbecoming behavior for my church family? And yet, that’s what seems to happen.  Without intentionality, I find myself creating or participating in unhealthy behavior, often without a thought:  it’s just the way it’s always been!

I skimmed the book UnChristian talking about the ways folks outside of the church view the church:  it’s not pretty.  I’ve read I Like Jesus But Not the Church:  more of the same.  I’ve functioned in traditional church circles and emerging/post-modern community/conversation circles.  What I’ve noticed is that everyone wants the same thing:  attention.  But how folks go about getting that attention differs.

One of my spiritual advisor friends gave me a picture of relationship dynamics as an inverted triangle with the bottom point being the Victim, a top point being labeled Defender, and the other top point being labeled Aggressor.  Those roles can be really unhealthy, and they’re easy to fall into.  Instead, she flipped the triangle over, labeled the top God, and the other two points People, pointing out that it’s so much better to be drawn equally to God, and then we’re drawn towards each other.  

Lately as I’ve seen the whole “Christendom” culture eroding and the “post-modern” mindset emerging, I’ve sensed that folks in the church feel threatened.  New means change; change is perceived as loss; loss means discomfort; discomfort means acting out.  When one sibling bonks another, they might do it out of frustration, or they might do it to get attention from the adult because they’re feeling some sort of loss.  And what typically happens?  I find myself running in and chastising the “abuser”:  “Don’t do that!  You know better.”  Which he does:  because he’s getting what he wants.   

Instead, if I pay attention to the “victim” – don’t treat him as a victim, but simply state what happened:  “Wow, your brother didn’t use his words like we’re supposed to in this house.  I see a bonk on your noggin.  Let’s take care of that”, both seem to calm down, and words get used more frequently that flinging lego blocks.  The “abuser” doesn’t get what he wants; the “victim” isn’t coddled or talked down to; the “rescuer” isn’t rescuing but rather noticing, stating, speaking to a better way.

“I had decided that my oldest son was a born bully, and my youngest boy was innately sweet and gentle.  And every day there was fresh evidence that I was right, because every day David seemed meaner and meaner, and every day Andy seemed more vulnerable, more pathetic, more in need of my protection.

The turning point came when the boys were about ten and seven.  I was in a session with Dr. Ginott and heard him say something about treating our children, not as they are, but as we hoped they would become.  That thought revolutionized my thinking.  It freed me to look at my boys with new eyes.  What did I hope them to become?” (Siblings Without Rivalry 122)

When church issues arise, what do I see normally happen?  Generally a whole lot of attention is given to the “abusers” or “complainers”:  they can be the loudest.  What would happen if we paid attention to the injured party?  Would people still only like Jesus and not the church?  Would people be freed of the roles they’ve assumed or been placed in?  Would we start to take baby steps towards that better way of being and acting?  In the Old Testament there’s a bit of doom and gloom, especially in the prophetic books.  But if I wade through it, I come to the other side reading such words of encouragement – hope – a better way – The Better Way.  

Hope.  Come, Lord Jesus, come.

One thought on ““Don’t give your attention to the aggressor . . . “

  1. Heather Cawte

    I’m always pleased to see another post from you, because I find your insights very relevant, and I like the way you put things across. You have a very readable style.

    This has so much in it that is thought-provoking for me. I’m going to be chewing this one over for a while. What would happen? It’s a great question 🙂

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