Growing up in a minister’s home carried some specific challenges, but now that I write those words and think about it … that shouldn’t be true. I believe that these challenges should be met no matter what home you grow up in.
“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” That’s so limiting. Hah.
What happens at home, stays at home.
I grew up knowing that what was said in our home, stayed in our home. Let’s be honest, it wasn’t just that I grew up knowing that, we were told over and over and over (ad nauseum) that the things we heard around the table were never (let me emphasize that again – NEVER) to be spoken outside the house.
Our parents were pretty good about not talking about people and things that were happening in the church or the community, but conversations sometimes happened in front of us and before we were released to go away, we were always reminded that what we had heard could go no further.
Trust me, there wasn’t a one of us that wanted to face either Mom or Dad if something got back to them.
So we learned that we needed to respect those boundaries.
The thing is – when Dad needed to talk about something sensitive, it wasn’t gossip. He really needed Mom’s input. I never knew my father to randomly speak about people in a negative manner – something I wish I’d been better at learning.
The second thing about growing up with Mom and Dad was that … in public … outside the house … we treated them and each other … and Dad’s position with respect. That was sacrosanct. No matter how angry Mom was with him, she didn’t talk about it or whine at her friends about it. Our desires to rebel, to fight back, to act out, to be self-centered children were secondary to the fact that we were a member of the Greenwood family. We were taught over and over that our behavior not only reflected on us, but on Dad’s position as a pastor and leader in the community.
That was a tough one to swallow. If we got in trouble, it wasn’t just our reputations at stake, it was Dad’s as well. Talk about a lot of responsibility for a kid. But we knew that for Dad to be effective, we were part of that equation. How many times do we see pastor’s kids – completely out of control – and wonder how in the world we can respect their teaching on a Sunday morning? (and by completely out of control, I do NOT mean normal kid stuff)
As a kid, I heard over and over how teacher’s kids and preacher’s kids were always the worst of the lot. Rebellion set in and they found horrible ways to embarrass their parents.
Hah. Not so much. A lot of that had to do with the way Mom stepped in. That woman was as rebellious as anyone I’ve ever known. Oh … the stories. But, she knew what respect and honor meant and instilled that in her kids from a very early age. Sure, she wore shorts and went barefoot in a town with little old church ladies who took her to task for acting like a heathen (drying laundry on a Sunday? She was going straight to hell). But, never once did she respond in anger to them or treat them like the witches they were. On Sunday mornings she dressed us all up, smiled and stood by her husband, shaking those horrible women’s hands with grace and dignity. And you know what? She insisted that we behave in the same manner, because anything else was vile and unacceptable behavior and we were better than that.
Notice I didn’t say that we were better than them. We were better than bad behavior.
I’m not sure why all of this has been rattling around in my head for the last few days, but it occurs to me that my parent’s lessons about respect, honor, dignity, grace and keeping our mouths shut are things often lost in the noisy chaos of self-interest, self-promotion, self-centeredness and selfishness. We live in a world where people are so desperate for attention, they will seek it no matter who might be caught in collateral damage. Exposing others’ pain and secrets, exposing our family’s troubles, exposing our loved one’s pain … so we can get attention.
If you’re in a bad place, find someone trustworthy to talk to. But, publicizing the negative and the difficult in a relationship simply degrades everyone involved … including you. Yes, there has been too much hidden over the years, allowing evil people to get away with evil actions, but that is not what I’m writing about here, and truth be told – you already know that.
This isn’t about secrecy … it’s about respecting and honoring the people around you. It’s sometimes extremely difficult, but it’s worth it.