|Image credit michelle brunner on Flickr|
We have had so many conversations about this. And to be perfectly honest, not very grace-filled ones. I get so incredibly frustrated that no matter how many times we have discussed it, each time seems as if we are starting from scratch. Any of the documented negative consequences of spanking and all research are ignored. The sexual damage that spanking can cause is met with shock and disbelief. Pleas to examine the Scripture are shut down because the Bible must always say exactly what a person from our culture casually skimming the KJV would assume.
Her side of it consists of the exact same arguments. She praises pro-spanking authors like Dobson and Gothard for all of the great good they have done for families. She reiterates that spanking is only harmful if done in anger. She brings out the instant obedience in the face of danger argument. If the conversation is still going at this point, she will add that my kids don't always obey, with the implication that whatever I am doing isn't working perfectly, and maybe they need a good old fashioned spanking. She argues that God spanks us.
Why do we even bother to have this conversation? Partly because each time she would give the appearance of listening and a degree of openness, and promise to read more links and info if I would send them. Partly because her approval matters to me. Partly because our relationship is close, and this issue is so important to me that I want it to be important to her, too. Partly because I am stubborn and get tunnel vision all too often. Partly because we are family, and have long established patterns that we still fall into even after recognizing that they aren't healthy or beneficial. Partly because I wanted so much to think that if I somehow said the magic words they would sink in. Because I wanted to believe that deep down, her defense of spanking was really protesting too much--that she didn't fully believe all the things she was saying and that a part of her didn't want to spank but was simply parroting all the things she has been taught.
Somehow, the dream made clear to me what any outsider would have seen long before: she really does believe what she is saying. She genuinely believes that spanking is beneficial, and any pretense of being interested in alternatives or reasons why spanking is harmful is simply misguided courtesy. She will doodle on the covers of my beliefs regarding spanking because she has no desire to delve into the book, and doesn't really consider it important to begin with.
I am slow sometimes. When it comes to strangers, I am quick to remind myself that I don't have to persuade them. I cannot be the Holy Spirit to someone else. Whacking people over the head with our views is rarely productive. I know all this. But I forget so easily, especially when it comes to family.
Frankly, the bean dip approach is not who I am. I don't think it will ever come naturally, because as much as I loathe confrontation, I blurt and feel compelled to talk back, even when my brain is shaking its head no. I fully believe that there are times when we are called to speak up, particularly on issues like spanking when the victims have no power to speak for themselves. But maybe, just maybe, there are also times when we are called to let go of things that were never our right or responsibility, like changing someone else's mind. So I am not going to stop blogging about spanking or gentle discipline. But in this particular relationship, I am purposing to let go of the compulsion to convince her (and I am blogging about it to help me remember). It is not my job to persuade her not to spank.