Recently I was listening to an audiobook someone had recommended to me talking about
the effects of emotionally immature parents on their children. As I listened, it became evident that
there are many aspects of ‘emotional immaturity’ as it was defined by the author. By the time I got
to chapter 5 of the book, it became very clear that there are no parents living on the earth that would
pass for an emotionally mature person according to the author’s definition.
Don’t misunderstand me, there was good information in the book and definitely some behavior patterns to avoid that I have witnessed in my counseling practice, but I was looking for who would ‘fit the mold’ for the ‘perfect parent’. As I processed the thought and actually put it into words, I realized the absurdity: Because there are no perfect people on earth, there are no perfect parents on earth. It sounds like a “no-
brainer” I know, but truthfully, I encounter people every day who, like me, have placed expectations on
others that would require perfection.
In marriage, we look to our spouses and expect them to always respond appropriately to us or to our
Children. When they don’t, we tend to take offense and make it an indicator that they don’t love or
care for us. Or maybe we reprimand them harshly and point out those imperfections.
In our work, we often look to our bosses and our co-workers and expect them to handle any given
situation in the same way we would. When they don’t, we tend to condemn them and sometimes
imply that we would be better bosses because we would have handled it differently. With co-workers
we often begrudge them because they are different and don’t act according to the values that we think
are most important.
In parent/child relationships, we get upset that our parent wasn’t all they needed to be for us, and often
don’t consider any other factors that might have been at play in shaping their decisions. We
often assume, because they are parents, they have all we need/want and are able to give it to
us at any given time. When they don’t, we tend to blame them for all our shortcomings or hold a grudge
against them until we are swimming in misery.
Between believers and unbelievers these same patterns persist. The unbeliever will often look at the
believer as someone who should never make a mistake or commit sin. They assume their desire to share Christ with them is because they aren’t accepted as they are.
The believer is guilty of these same unreasonable expectations because the believer often will look down on the unbeliever for ungodliness, which is reasonable if they are not God-followers. The moment a believer condemns the unbeliever in their heart and mind, they close the door on the purpose to which God has called them. Regardless of our situation, it’s important to have reasonable expectations of others. That expectation should be based in the knowledge that WE ARE ALL SINNERS.
Multiple times in Scripture, we see how God responds to sinners. Matthew 9:36 tells us, “He was moved with compassion, when He saw that they were weary and scattered, like sheep without a shepherd.” In each situation mentioned in scripture, God’s compassion moved Him to provide what they needed: sometimes it was redemption, and other times it was guidance or protection.
We would do well to be true God-followers by beginning with compassion. Compassion by definition is a concern for the sufferings of other people. If you’re wondering if the person you’re considering while
reading this article is suffering, I can tell you they are. I am confident of this because 1) we are all
sinners 2) we live in a sin-cursed world. The very nature of sin is suffering and so we all have sufferings
we endure in this life.
There are no exceptions; we all need compassion.
Since God demonstrated His compassion by offering redemption, guidance, and protection, we, too, can offer those same things to those around us.
We can offer redemption by pointing them to Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sin on the cross and made it possible to redeem all things for His glory. Because of this redemption, we can also experience redemption in relationships with others by extending them the same forgiveness we have been given.
We can offer guidance because the only hope for our lives is consulting the God who created us. He knows how He formed us, and He knows what is best for us.
We can offer protection by pointing others to the one true God who has sovereign power over everything and holds us securely in His hands. He will guide and keep us while we traverse this sin-cursed world and He has secured our eternity with Him in Heaven. Our only hope as sinful people is the forgiveness that God offers us and the forgiveness we can extend to one another.