I vacillate back and forth between believing fake it ‘till you make it is an appropriate motto for parenting kids from trauma backgrounds, or not. Most of the time it sounds so right. Other times it appears disingenuous. Apostle Paul has some words of wisdom.
And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience Colossians 3:12
The Greek word for put on is the verb enduo, which is the picture of getting dressed. You pick out what you’re going to wear and you put on the clothing. Literally, the sentence reads, “Put on, therefore, as elect ones.” In the Greek, the action is at the beginning of the sentence, which, essentially emphases the action of getting dressed, not in the selection of what to wear.
Think about this. In order to put on the garments, we have to do something. In this case, take the steps necessary to wrap yourself in these clothes. As bible scholar Skip Moen says, (and thanks to him for giving me this great word study) “You can’t sit naked in the room waiting for God to dress you in compassion and kindness.”
By the language employed in that verse, we;re not being asked to wait until God changes our heart before we exhibit compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, or patience. That’s where the fake it ’till you make it comes in! The power is in getting dressed, not how I feel about it. I can already exhibit those actions towards my child (or others, or myself) even if I don’t feel like it, even if it feels fake.
Compassion: I will recognize that in many cases, if my child could do better, they would do better. I can look for the deep need behind the behavior and not punish my child for those things they are not yet capable of doing. Instead, when appropriate, I can teach them the skills they are lacking or are underdeveloped.
Kindness: When my child comes home from school, I will remember that he or she has had to pull it together for so many hours already and that when they get home to their safe place, they may collapse into a puddle of emotions and feelings and misbehavior. I can do small acts of kindness for them and let them decompress in ways that are meaningful to them. Offer a favorite snack, set up a bubble bath time, allow them quiet time alone or offer special time with me.
Humility: I can model humility to my child by being honest about my own shortcomings as a person and as a parent. I can apologize when I am wrong, I can admit fault. I can be willing to change when necessary. I can say, “honey, I don’t know the answer to that. Let’s find out together’. I can keep learning.
Gentleness: I can offer a shoulder to cry on, instead of an ‘I told you this would happen if you did xyz.” I can walk over to my child when I have something important to say to them that may be hard for them to hear, instead of shouting it across the room. I can soften my gaze when I look at them, I can get down to their eye level. I can be mindful to connect with their heart before I correct their behavior.
Patience: I can wake up each day with the intention of doing it all over again. I can answer their same question for the 10th time about when dinner is going to be ready, or whatever other incessant question they ask, with the same loving response as I would answer their deeper question, “Are you going to feed me and love me and take care of me no matter what?’ Because they is what they are really asking.
The real key to success that Paul is trying to get us to understand is that when we put on the actions of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, or patience, and ask God to be in it with us, we will be transformed to fit the clothes. I want to get dressed in God’s closet.