Ambiguity of intolerance

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 6, 2004

There’s a fine line between love and hate.

Many people have used this phrase. Celene Dion and Luciano Pavarotti joined forces a few years ago to sing a dynamic duet (&uot;I Hate You, Then I Love You&uot;) about it and Christian crossover artist Stacie Orrico sings about it in her hit single, &uot;Stuck on you,&uot; but can a person really love and hate at the same time?

It is possible to love someone, but disagree with his or her behavior, isn’t it? In fact, if anyone mastered the technique, I would have to guess that parents would rank at the top of the list.

Most, if not all, of the parents I have come in close contact with seem to have a unique ability of balancing the two, particularly parents with rebellious teenagers who probably account for the most magnified example of this paradox.

There is not a parent in the world, which at some point has not been disappointed by their child’s decisions or behavior and has had to correct them, but lately it seems there is an increasing number of parents who have given up on the concept of administering discipline to their children for fear of damaging their self esteem.

The irony, of course, is that that argument could never be further from the truth. Many educators and child psychologists will tell you that children operate best when they are in a structured environment with clearly defined boundaries.

Ever since I have known my friend Lizbeth, there has never been a doubt in my mind, or anyone else’s how much she loves her kids. She is tender, patient, affectionate and affirming with each one of her three children, catering to their emotional needs as their different personalities dictate.

She showers her kids with hugs and kisses, snuggles them and listens to their stories. She makes herself available to them, answering questions, praising their accomplishments, fixing boo boos, and encouraging them when they experience failure or rejection.

She builds their character by teaching them to respect authority and follow through on their commitments, leading them by example, apologizing when she makes a mistake and acknowledging her imperfections.

She is the epitome of what a loving parent ought to be and it never fails when we’re out somewhere that she gets a compliment on how well her children behave.

Countless observers recognize this and compliment her on the conduct of her kids, crediting them for being helpful, polite and respectful, followed almost always with the inquiry, &uot;How did you get them to behave so well&uot;.

I still have the picture etched in my mind of her leaning over candidly to get within earshot whispering distance of the curious and desperate mom and mouthing the words, &uot;Believe it or not, I spank them.&uot;

I still laugh at the encounter to this day, but not because some little tyke is probably going to get popped on the tush for disobeying his mom or dad, but because she ran straight to the &uot;bottom line&uot; without mincing words.

It’s the truth and it works. Parents who incorporate spankings as part of disciplining their children will tell you that they don’t like administering them, but they do it because they love their children and want to establish a clear boundary that if crossed holds tangible consequences.

Contrary to what Dr. Spock might say, children whose parents practice spankings are far better behaved, do better in school and other structured environments and tend to develop a healthy respect for authority than children whose parents don’t spank them.

Still, the task of administering the rod of correction must be balanced with much-needed displays of affection and affirmation.

A child who is always scorned for his or her infractions and never praised for his accomplishments will get discouraged and become bitter and likely see no point in being &uot;good&uot; because he or she does not associate being good with any benefit or reward. All he or she knows is punishment and ridicule, therefore discipline is a task that not only requires firmness and consistency, but patience and wisdom.

All parents who claim to love their kids, don’t stop loving them simply because they did something wrong or chose a path that is clearly not good for them.

Parents whose children have grown up and chosen to walk the paths of dereliction, have repeatedly testified that they never stopped loving their kids, regardless of the crime they committed or the lifestyle they had chosen, they just learned to separate the person from the action.

They are proof of a love that transcends circumstance.

In the Forum section of Tuesday’s edition of the R-C News Herald, political cartoonist &uot;Oliphant&uot; gave a sharp contrast to this principle when he painted President Bush and a few select members of his cabinet as stereotypical ivory tower Christians coarsely chastising an obviously embarrassed Vice President Dick Cheney for his daughter’s lesbian lifestyle.

The cartoon shows the President seated with his chin barely above a large desk surrounded by what appears to be an angelic Secretary of Defense Condoleza Rice and a stern-faced Bible-thumping Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, accompanied by a woman (who I have yet to figure out her identity) holding her hand up to her forehead as if she is ready to faint.

The caption out of the President’s mouth reads, &uot;UNCLE DICK!! YOUR DAUGHTER IS WHAT??? I HOPE YOU DISOWN HER UNCLE DICK&uot; balanced by a remark in the bottom left corner made by a small indiscernible creature that says, &uot;Go wash your mouth out uncle Dick&uot; as if what he said was so dirty he would have to take an old fashioned bite out of a bar of soap.

The cartoon struck a chord in me. It painted a sad truth of the perception many non-believers have about the church and those who profess the name of Christ and it made me realize that we have only lassoed one half of the equation.

We have succeeded in making our point of disagreeing with the behavior/lifestyle, but we have neglected to show the brotherly love that is characteristic of being a follower of Christ and in doing so have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

God loves all people and I think if Christians are to regain their position of respect in this culture, it is going to have to start with us. A very dear homosexual friend of mine, in an attempt to justify his behavior by using Scripture, told me that God’s greatest commandment is to love.

Perhaps he holds the missing link to understanding the great equation of the ambiguity of intolerance and love.

I have been friends with this man since my teenage years and am living proof that Christians can still love without compromising their convictions. If nothing else, that cartoon ought to be a bold reminder that just as ferverently as we fight for ideals like the preservation of traditional marriage, we must never forget to love.