When we realise we are worthy simply because we were born, we no longer look outside of ourselves for validation and approval” – Emmanuel
I love the wisdom of this quote.
We are all worthy. Worthy of love. Worthy of respect. Worthy of happiness… We all have something valuable to offer. God put each of us here and He doesn’t mess about, we’re each an important part of his plan, we’re each his child.
It has taken me years to understand and believe in my inherent worth. As a child, I thought I had to earn worth by being a “good girl” and achieving high grades at school and being well-rounded (no amount of physical education was going to give me co-ordination or any interest in sports). I was compliant to the detriment of my own voice, I was a stressed & exhausted teenager, spending too much time studying and I felt humiliated by my short-comings. My sense of unworthiness left me quite powerless in my own life, both as a child and an adult. But I’m not the only one who has felt that way. I grew up in a culture that measures worth by external indicators – achievement, material success, fitting in… But worth doesn’t need measuring, it just is.
So, without a model for it, how do I show my boys their own worth and help them to believe in it? How do I do it while living in a world largely still using the same yard-stick used to measure me? I think I am doing it in small ways already:
- I light up when I greet them, I smother them with affection when I say goodnight or goodbye.
- My love and affection is unconditional. I’ll tell them “I’m cross with what you did but I know you’re great and I love you”. Cuddles are available even in the middle of a meltdown. Their worth and their behaviour are two separate things.
- I apologise. They are worthy of an apology. My age doesn’t let me off the hook.
- I stop and look and listen when they have something to say. It tells them that what they have to say is valuable. Manners are still required – “excuse me” etc. (I could be more consistent with this, it’s difficult to give my full attention when I’m in the middle of something.)
- I spend time with them throughout the day. Not always the long stretches I’d like to, but time spent together shows I consider them worthy of my time. They are important enough to get a place on the day’s priorities.
- I am responsive to their feelings. I’ll say “I’m glad you’re looking forward to going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house” or “I know it’s frustrating that you haven’t finished your Lego building and we have to go”. Validating how they feel shows that their feelings are important, even though the outcome doesn’t always change (eg. There’s not time to finish the Lego project if we’re to get to school on time).
These are small but consistent ways I show my boys their worth. Every interaction I have with them is an opportunity to show the reverence I have for them. As a mother, I am a representative of God’s love. As they get older, life will get more complicated and my boys will be able to think about things in increasing depth. There will be opportunities to go much deeper with them and discuss worth more thoroughly.
Already, though, we have had an experience through which to teach Jake (5) his own worth and that of others. At kindergarten, he had on-going issues with another child who would shout and strike out at him. At first, Jake just took it, he’d never really had to stand up for himself before. My husband and I had to teach him that it wasn’t ok for someone else to be mean to him. We taught him to say “Stop it, I don’t like it” and to get a teacher’s help when he needed it. We also explained that it wasn’t ok to return the boy’s unkind behaviour because then the boy would feel upset and it wasn’t respectful to him. Jake got pretty good at standing up for himself firmly but respectfully. After a while, he labelled the boy “naughty” and “bad”, something I had been avoiding. I told Jake that no one is good all of the time or bad all of the time and that, although the boy did things he shouldn’t have, he wasn’t bad. In time, the boy’s behaviour improved and he and Jake had many fun times together. Jake, rather a wise soul, said to me, “I think I’ve taught him how to be nice”. I was thrilled for him to have realised his own power.
I think I touched on concepts of worth when coaching Jake through that tricky relationship at kindy. Our sense of our own worth and the worth of others steers our behaviour. I don’t think I’ve used the word “worthy” with Jake. I have discussed “respect” often but I’ll try to introduce the word “worthy” when I see a place for it.
There is so much more to this idea of worth, which I hope will unfold as I live and write.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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