Teaching Admiration: With a dose of virtue

Have you experienced this yet? Do your Elementary school-aged boys no longer want to say they “don’t like girls”, or vice-versa? What’s happened to this harmless phrase that was part of normal child development of the past?

We were at the table, and I asked, “Hey, does this ever happen? You don’t really like any girls right now, but you are worried that if you say you ‘don’t like girls’, that someone will call you gay?” The reaction was a complete nod combined with a shoulder led sigh of relief. It’s a kind of reverse-bullying I had overheard some other kids talking about. I could tell by the pause in the reaction that it was an important moment for me to help them understand. I knew right then, that it was time to share the importance and implications of the word Admiration.

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Use of the word Admiration from Google.com

Use of this important word over time is on the decline. But you just watch, it’s going to be used more from this day forward (at least in this household).  Now here’s something that must be stated in order to have a fair personal perspective post about this topic. I believe that God created us, and that he created us male or female. I know that you or someone you love believes otherwise. I have people in my life that I love that believe that they should be supported in their choices no matter what my beliefs are.

I was not surprised at how easily love came into my heart for the people I know who struggle with these tough issues. This reminded me that God loves all of us. You know, there are some that feel that it is out of their control, and some that feel it is a test of their character to overcome these feelings that they have. It’s a perplexing issue and I’ve determined that I’ll do my best as a person and parent to avoid the damaging effects of hatred on society, to promote virtue and to seek for mutual understanding. It’s a tall order, but every part of me desires it.

What makes me the most sad is when sexual orientation decisions seem to emerge from harm that others have unfairly dealt. Two lovely ladies, both raped as teenagers who find comfort in their relationship where they can never be hurt by a man again. A man who was sexually abused by his father and decided that because what happened back then turned him on that he must be homosexual. These experience shares have led me to wonder about what psychological and sociological factors are contributing to social acceptance of alternate lifestyles when, for some (though it may be a minority), what may be needed is an increase in support and care for those who are abused to learn and recover effectively from these damaging moments in their lives.

I’m a life-long learner and currently committed to my pursuit of a Masters degree (slowly but surely). Organizational Psychology is a good fit for my career as a professional dot connecter and supporter of all things collaborative and good. It’s great for my curiosity too. It’s filling my empty parking-lot-of-a-brain with truck loads of information to process and reflect upon.

With 5 kids aged 7-17, I’ve had a great deal of inadvertent adventures in developmental psychology over the last two decades. What’s it like to watch all of these lives develop? Well, I can tell you this much is true; Environment influence and complex human characteristics are of applied and practical importance and not just scientific. There are practical things we can affect by developing a deeper understanding of developmental psychology. Some see a gradual curve of learning moments in developmental progression. I lean towards the discontinuous development pattern that some researchers use to review human change. I have witnessed many of these step-by-step patterns. Each little human seems to spend as much time on each “step” as they would like, prior to the next progression in learning. What then appears to be a curve of smooth learning from a distance (or hind-sight) is up-close a series of segmented learning moments.

From what I have noticed, I think it would make a little more sense to insert the word “pause” instead of “step” in this development pattern. Growth and learning is exhausting. Sometimes children display this as frustration. There’s that little development or improvement moment as a toddler takes a first step and then plops down and just sits there not wanting to get back up. What are they thinking? The human brain is able to make associations and perceptions of others (and self) even at a very young age. Perhaps the stress of the situation has caused a needed break from progress. Either way the “pause” causes self-reflection or think time.

This is where I have probably contributed the most to my children’s development. I watch for these pauses and lean in close and say something like, “That was your first step! It was a great one–soon you will feel like taking another! You’re going to love walking around on this earth.” Yes, I inoculate with confidence or at base, I support their individual agency to realize their potential for success, and then change or progress is up to them.

So here we are back at this moment at the kitchen table. I was grateful that the word “admire” came to mind. I leaned in and said, “Do you know what admiration means? Do you have men in your life that you admire?” I mentioned a few Batman, their Dad, Neighbors, Friends, Teachers. I told them that just because they admire these people does not make them gay. I told them of women I admire. I explained that I am not gay because I think a woman is beautiful, wonderful or fantastic. I shared with them that my belief is that the adversary-of-all will try to skew our perceptions of those we are blessed to meet in this life and encourage us to think of them as sexual objects for our personal gratification. I discouraged that and will continue to stand for virtuous thoughts and actions. “We will admire others with a heart of virtue.” As a mother, I shared my beliefs. “We are here to be tried and tested in all things. Just because a thought comes to my mind does not mean that I am that thought. If you ever feel like your admiration for someone has become a same-sex physical attraction, come and talk to me or someone else who loves you about it. You will find guidance and love.”

As a woman striving for virtue, care in admiration has to be true for me no matter what sex the person I admire is. I am blessed to associate with so many fantastic men in my professional and social life. Un-virtuous thoughts of married men are off limits. I strive to-and do keep my admiration within check. I hope that someday I’ll have a husband who appreciates that this is already an established habit for me. Proverbs 31: 11 “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her…”

I feel like it’s my responsibility as a mother to seek to understand and explain the confusion that is a result of the social affects of this change in the worlds acceptance of same-gender attraction. I remember saying I didn’t like boys, even-though I was secretly in love with most of them. I’m sad that my children aren’t able to safely hide secrets like that in the same way as I did not-so-long ago.

I’ll nurture all that’s there to work with by encouraging resilience and increasing their vocabulary. But by nature! They had just better become as awesome as they were from the start.

Parenting on your own is hard enough, virtue can lighten the weight of the world!

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