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Archive for the ‘Strong-Willed’ Category

Is there hope? 

In case you hadn’t noticed, I am independent and strong-willed.  This whole essay is like insider information. 

 

When I was six years old, I knew the facts: 1. I am a sinner.  2.  My sin needs punished.  3.  Jesus died for my sins on the cross.  4.  Believing in Jesus means I am forgiven.   Without invitation or companionship, I grabbed a stuffed animal, sat in my little rocking chair, and prayed that Jesus would forgive my sins.  I meant it, and Jesus saved me that day.  By His grace my strong will was surrendered to Him. 

 

I understand rebellion.  There were many times even before I was ten when I weighed my options.  If I had wanted to do something wrong, I could endure whatever the punishment would be.  To be honest, the punishment was no threat.  But I did not do a lot of premeditated disobedience.  Why?  By God’s grace, I loved people, and didn’t want to disobey my parents or my God. 

 

Strong-willed people do not give up.  He perseveres, and continues to be a friend to someone no matter what.  Circumstances do not deter him or change his mind.  That persistence can be an inspiration to other people.  Think of the Poseidon Adventure. 

 

Doesn’t independence lead to wandering away from God?  No.  The will of a Christian human being can be aligned with God’s.  Jesus was not weak-willed.  He made himself a living sacrifice (living to die), praying “not My will, but Yours be done.”  We can imitate that.  Jesus had a will to be denied.  This was not mere rhetoric. 

 What about marriage?  Can a strong-willed person enter into the relationship of mutual submission?  There are few greater gifts that a person can give than to willingly submit his preferences and will.  The Anglican church’s marriage ceremony includes the vow: ‘With my body, I thee worship.’  I don’t mind that idea.  It’s the idea of self-sacrifice.  And worship isn’t something the worshipers are forced into doing.  Their strength enables them to lay down self at the feet of someone else’s will. 

This question is particularly relevant in the case of a strong-willed woman, who is called to be a helper to her husband, to submit to him as the head of her household.  A strong-willed woman cannot marry a man who will follow her.  She wouldn’t respect a man like that enough to marry him.  What she really needs is a man who will assert his strength without trying to enslave her.  But she might be a follower.  If there were a cause big enough, and a leader great enough, she’d be fulfilled in joining that.  That’s what her faith in God is.  His cause is bigger than her ideas; His strength is greater than hers.  So she follows Him.  And she loves Him.

 

Strong-willed people are like lines.  They shape the world.  If that’s the case, though, the more emotional people color the world.  They make it interesting.  I’m a lines person.  I even eat ice cream inside my mouth (without getting it all over my face).  But I just wish the colorful, less strong-willed people would color in the lines.  When they don’t follow any predictable rules, interaction is very hard.  I’m trying, though. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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What should parents of strong-willed children do? 

Understand yourself.  Are you strong-willed?  How do you make decisions?  How do you communicate and learn?  

 

Understand your child.  Love him unconditionally.  Be humble.  Rely on God.  Be willing to let Him be the ultimate authority in your child’s life. 

 

Until conversion from dead in sins, a child has two options: either he is subject to influence, in which case a parent has an easier time getting a child to obey, but risks producing a child who follows whichever prevailing influence, be it human, media, or substance.  Or the child is what is called strong-willed, which means he worships something.  No threats of punishment; no bribery of food, toys, privileges, or love will avail.  To such a child there is no question of comprehension (he knows what you mean) or the easy way out.  He doesn’t want the easy way.  He doesn’t want fun, or gentleness.  At least he might, but it is not his primary will. 

 

You can tell this child what to do.  Tell him what you expect.  Tell him consequences.  And follow through.  If you do not follow through on his expectations, he will see that what you tell him about rules are not facts, but manipulations.  This must not be a contest of wills, you against him.  Never punish any child for doing something you simply didn’t want him to do.  If you didn’t tell him it was a rule, he wasn’t disobeying you.  If you were displeased, simply tell him so, make a new rule if necessary, and move on. 

 

Facts are influential here.  The fifth commandment is repeated in the Bible several times, rephrased.  In one place it says, “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”  The last part is a statement of fact.  “This is right.”  Tell your child what is right and what is wrong.  He may still do what is wrong, but decisions are made on facts, and eventually the facts might bring him to change his mind.  Know that “because I said so,” won’t go a long way with him, though. 

 

If a strong-willed child asks you why, he is seeking more facts.  His decision-making faculties need more information.  Some parents see this as a challenge to authority.  From one light it is.  From the child’s perspective, authority is largely irrelevant.  He isn’t demanding you give him an answer or else he won’t obey you.  He is learning to make decisions of his own.  He will make his decisions on his own, and he will acquire his facts from you if he trusts you and you’re available, or from someone else, if you’re not.  Take his “why?” as a sign of trust and respect.  He considers you qualified to answer. 

 

You’ve no idea how many times I took tests and saw trick questions because there was insufficient information.  I wanted to interrogate the questioner, to get all the facts.  Unfortunately most of the authors of questions didn’t see things my way.  They were actually testing my ability to assume what they were asking.  True or false questions were the exception.  Those were my kind of challenges.  One word could be different or omitted, and the statement would change.  There was the place for trick questions to be detected. 

 

Tell him stories.  Don’t tell him allegories or fables.  Strong-willed children will see through these.  But tell him stories about noble characters.  Tell him Bible stories.  If your child remembers facts, this is a sign that he is going to be influenced in the same way. 

 

Don’t confuse an affinity for facts with a dismissal of concept.  If concepts are reality, they are facts as well, and your child will comprehend them.  My mother and sister learned math by memorizing formulae.  “It’s magic,” my mom’s geometry teacher taught her.  Math was a series of tools, a means to an end, but not a truth to her.  To me math is a reality.  I follow concepts.  When I was learning to reciprocal fractions in order to divide them, I could not understand because my mom/teacher gave me rules, but not facts.  The rule was to invert the second fraction, then multiply.  But the concept was as simple as the top number is divided by the bottom number.  Notice the difference in those statements.  One has the infinitive, “to invert,” implying a command or an action.  The second is a statement of fact indicated by “is.”  There is a third type of person, the creative, who sees outside the box.  I encountered my deficiency in geometry.  My mom memorized theorems.  I learned concepts, could anticipate theorems.  But doing proofs was incredibly hard, especially if it involved adding a fact (constructing one or more lines). 

 

For theology the same applies.  Don’t just teach simple facts.  You can teach concepts that are realities.  Just be ready for a lot of questions (don’t get worried about them; your child is not losing his faith, but owning it, allowing it to expound into his decision making). 

 To God be all glory, Lisa of Longbourn

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How can you tell if someone is strong-willed?

He will act and think independently.  Peer pressure will not be a problem, and neither will authority be influential.  Big decisions will be made on personal counsel, or counsel he requests.  Because he will not follow a crowd, and because of his expectations, he may not have many friends.  In a large group of people, he will sit apart.  Though strong-willed people make leaders, they are the lonely-at-the-top kind, not the popular center of a circle.  Those who wish to follow the crowd will feel threatened by the example of someone who doesn’t.  Or they will make a hero out of him, in which case he will be considered sacred and above them.  One way or another, he is lonely. 

 

He will not be shy, though.  Fear is not a problem.  His ideas may be accepted or rejected, and will do him no harm.  If he finds someone who is like-minded or willing to listen, he will share everything.  This can come across as debate or persuasive speech. 

 

If a tendency to independence is seen at very young ages, most likely the allegiance is to self.  I believe oldest children of families are born almost universally with this inherent stubbornness and strength (though those not born the oldest can also have it).  It makes them leaders, or in the very least prevents them from being followers.  A child with this personality may appear stupid if misunderstood, as if he doesn’t understand what is required of him, or cannot connect actions with consequences.  Don’t be deceived; there are some children who do not think ahead, and live on the impulse of the moment.  Strong-willed children are much smarter than that.  They may even be anticipating their parents, or analyzing motives.  When a child is intentionally pushing its parents’ buttons, you may suspect strong will. 

 

Strong-willed people do not always fight with each other.  They do not bicker.  Life and convictions are taken very seriously.  At first encounter, strong-willed people may not like each other.  If they become well acquainted, they will have great respect for each other.  If they are Christians with strong wills, they will be fast friends.  I condition my statement for Christians because a Christian is humbled.  They are united in allegiance, and thus also in standards.  Those who do not agree with them or do agree but are still worshiping self will be respected enemies, the kind worthy of combat. 

 

An independent person must work to be kind.  Those who are more emotional (Jane Austen would call them governed by sensibility) will be viewed as weak, silly, emotional, and incomprehensible.  In clashes there is a lot of frustration, because a strong-willed person will argue the facts, whereas another person will defend their feelings.  I am not saying one is more valid than the other.  Communication between the classifications of people takes time, caution, and deference.  People who rattle off platitudes and act on emotions will annoy the more stable, stubborn person. 

 

Plato said that plot is everything.  Forget motive and character.  Focus on what a person does.  The strong-willed person will deny this.  He lives based on what is.  He connects dots, and anticipates actions based on what he knows to be true about a person and their situation.  A strong-willed person learns definitionally.  He wants to know what something means. 

 

In a seeming contradiction, stories will be popular with him.  If a person can tell stories that are complex and logical, he is probably strong-willed.  The stories he loves will be heavy on character development, though.  He may prefer movies and books with lots of dialogue and description, and less action. 

 

Fictional stories are also popular.  As long as the story has inner consistency, it will be acceptable.  In fact, the more challenging to maintain consistency, the more a strong-willed person will applaud a successful narrative.  Beware, because strong-willed people can be liars, very good ones.  If their conscience does not betray them, nothing will.  (Others can lie, too.  They will lie for different reasons, and often illogically.  The child who spits his food out in front of you and then tells you he swallowed it is not strong-willed.) 

Questions?  Other behaviors you’ve observed?  Disagreements?  Feel free to comment! 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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What is a strong-willed person? 

Some people are born strong-willed.  Others work into it.  We might think of them as leaders, independent-minded, strong-willed, or stubborn.  They do not go with the flow.  Usually we recognize them in rebellion. 

 

Let me draw a comparison.  The majority of people are driven by emotion and beliefs.  It has been said that facts are far less powerful than what people believe.  These people feel that the most important thing is being sincere.  Inconsistency means nothing.  Life is lived as though relative.  If they felt it at the time, they did it.  They can be impulsive.  I don’t mean they seem impulsive, but that they really are.  (Wisdom can appear impulsive; if someone has an alert comprehension of a situation and an inherent sense of right and wrong, he will confidently choose very quickly and act on that decision.)  If a person is always true to himself, he is able to be manipulated.  His decisions are thus the floating, sleepy subjective of “follow your heart” – almost animal. 

 

However, a different kind of person is always trying to match himself to an outside ideal, whether pragmatic or spiritual (at the altar of self, of parents, of a romantic interest, a hero, a political ideal, or of God). Sincerity is important; only he wants to sincerely be his ideal, and believes reformation of actions will cause the change.  He still has that impressionable emotional side, but is not capable of being manipulated.  His decisions are on facts, rules, and objective evidence.  Standards are set by what he worships. 

All humans are born not worshiping God.  Self might be worshiped, in which case decisions are whatever self wants to do.  Self will be glorified.  Pain and bribery are nothing if the condition is not what the self wills.  Particularly if subjecting to them would profane independence, the terms are not embraced.  Or the idol might be another person, or a book, or TV show. 

 

There are people who begin as the first type of person and are trained or converted into something else.  Subjective manipulation can birth idolatry of a particular thing, rendering the person anchored, and not blown about with emotion any more. 

 

Conversion can happen for a strong-willed person from one idol to another, but it is not a matter of manipulation.  This is caused by more information about the idols.  No amount of pressure effects a change of mind.  I venture to guess that these people are not easily lied-to, either.  They tend to have a comprehensive view of reality that discerns truth. 

 

So eventually a strong-willed person will discover the truth or die in the process.  Discovering the truth and accepting it are not the same thing.  Many strong-willed people live in determined rebellion against God.  They believe in Him, know what His purpose is, and are not pleased.  They have chosen to worship self, and will not be supplanted.  Like the demons, they believe the truth, shudder, but hate the truth all the same.  In fact it is impossible to fully hate what is unknown. 

 

God can convict even an independent person of their sin, and humble them.  He can also establish formerly unstable, wind-of-the-moment-driven people as His worshipers.  I don’t claim to know how He does it.  I do believe that only He can.  When a person is saved, his spirit is made alive, rendering the sinful nature dead with Jesus on the cross.  Then the will has the power, by dependence on the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ life through them, to choose righteousness.  A strong-willed person recognizes that worship is absolute.  When his worship is given to God, his choices are made to God’s standard. 

 

What he worships, he values supremely in a way that the first kind of person cannot understand.  A strong-willed person understands commitment, is a zealous person, and expects fidelity from others.  He sees priorities as life-statements, reflecting not only the preference of the minute, but the direction of the years.  Yet he understands repentance, because it is a complete turnaround, a replacement of allegiance.  Repentance is not simply the recognition that a particular action is no longer popular or pleasant. 

 

A strong-willed person is not emotionless.  He feels just as deeply, and must reckon with the emotions.  But he cannot let them control him if they contradict his convictions.  This can be simpler, but not easier.  Some strong-willed people, when faced with intense emotional situations, feel torn in two. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

PS: Remember.  These are confessions of a strong-willed person.  My conclusions might be a little biased.  The object remains to aid communication between stronger and lesser wills.  Let me know what you think. 

 

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Why am I writing this series?  On Saturday I went to a jewelry party (like Pampered Chef, Tupperware, PartyLite candles, etc.)  There are rules for how to wear your jewelry!  People are afraid to try something new or not their typical style.  Layers are very “in” right now.  But you can go with a classic look that never goes out of fashion.  My friend who was hosting the party disagreed with some of the fundamentals of wardrobe, and the jewelry saleslady assented, “If it looks good to you, wear it; it’s all about confidence.”  I know my friend is independent-minded.   

Style is a big industry.  People advertise their designer creativity with crazy lines of clothing in fashion shows, and somehow make plenty of money.  This happens even though I don’t see anyone but models wearing those things, and if they’re not wearing them, are they really buying them?   Why do people follow trends, anyway?  The popular girl wore that, so I will too?  We really think the movie star’s life is so wonderful that we want to do everything like them, including clothes and hair? 

Because something is popular, we consider it beautiful?  Or just because it is new and different, edgy, we invest money in it?  I can understand doing that with a car (whose innovations usually look good and have functional improvements in performance).   Apparently advertising agencies run the world.  They created the concept of teenager, which now governs economics, education, family, marriage, morality, justice…  The industry tells us how to spend our money by manipulating emotional, need-to-fit-in people into feeling like they need their products.   

Do we have a choice?  Does God have choices?  What is the meaning of not choosing something?  Is value subjective or objective?  Is value placed on a thing by a chooser, or is it inherent?   The capitalist system of economics is based on the notion that consumers will act on their sense of value.  For example, I value a necklace at the jewelry party, but I value other uses of my money more. 

A wrench is thrown in the theory of capitalism when I say that even though I value something more than my fluid cash, I won’t buy the item because of moral/spiritual convictions.  I may believe that God doesn’t want me to spend money I don’t have, for example.  I believe that $15,000 would be a great deal for a house.  But I don’t have 15 grand, so I’m not acting on my sense of value.  Even if I need a house, or think it is a great investment, I won’t buy.   

God is also teaching me about embracing sacrifice, intentionally going without what I want.  This is part of the concept behind fasting.  Fasting is a huge exercise of will over want.   If I was being sincere, I would tell you how I really feel about fasting.  My convictions tell me that the way I feel is sometimes wrong.  So I will exercise my will in acting upon what I ought to be in order that I may become that ideal in sincerity.   

Finally, I’ve been reflecting on strong-willed people, especially children who try their parents.  Some strong-willed rebels are breaking my heart.  Other strong-willed children are too young to have made life-altering mistakes.  I listen to their parents talk about them, and I wonder if I could help them to understand the puzzles who are their children.  Would it benefit them to know?   Dr. Dobson wrote a book.  I haven’t read it.  He doesn’t seem to be strong-willed to me.  I think President Bush is.  President Reagan was. 

Heroes are strong-willed, fictional or historical.  Villains tend to be that, as well.  In Beauty and the Beast, both main characters are strong-willed.  Think of their argument after she runs away.  But, as the song says, somebody bends unexpectedly.  Notice it doesn’t say somebody was bent.  They bend.  The tense is intransitive.   

I can relate.  This could be titled, “Confessions of a Strong-willed Christian.”  In writing this series, I discovered a lot about myself, and happily connected dots.  I have a friend who thinks that it is inconsistent with the rest of my personality that I like to watch football.  My position is that it must be linked to my fundamental identity.  This has been an exercise in associating who I am with that identity.  But no, I still can’t explain why I like football. 

Still to come:

What is a Strong-Willed Person? 

How Can you Tell if Someone is Strong-Willed? 

What should Parents of Strong-Willed Children Do?  

Is there Hope?  The Good Side of Strong Will.  To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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