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How to Change Negative Character Traits
We've had quite the discussion lately at our house about how to change negative character traits.
Most of the "discussion" has consisted of me talking to my daughters and them sullenly replying, "but that's just the way I am!".

So it hasn't been too fruitful.

But I think we've finally made a breakthrough, and I want to share it.

My girls are truly wonderful. I know every mother says that, but they are. They're kind, they're loving, they're helpful, they have an extremely high moral framework for themselves, and they're a joy to parent.

But they each have their own areas of weakness. I've been focusing on oldest daughter lately, but I know younger daughter is next. And part of the problem is that my oldest daughter is an OLDEST DAUGHTER. That birth order thing is so real. She is a perfectionist, and she expects it in others. And she thinks she has the right to demand it or "helpfully" tell other children (namely her sister and my nephew whom we also homeschool) how they should act. It's completely typical for a first born.

I've always felt that your greatest weaknesses are tied to your strengths. She has a high demand of holiness in herself, which is great. She wouldn't lie. (I did all the time, just little ones, as a teen. To this day I struggle with the little things. But it would torture Rebecca if she did. I'm just 'fessin up here). She really wants to be good.

And she projects that onto others, and is hurt and angry if they don't follow through. So it's the flipside to a good trait.

So what do you do about it? She says she's been trying and trying and praying about it and nothing is working.

Here's where I think the problem lies, and what we're going to focus on next. I'm not sure that praying about a character flaw is nearly as appropriate or helpful as just praying about God. When we focus on His holiness, it's harder to stay proud. When we get a vision of His love, it's harder to stay petty. When we see how big He is, it's harder to stay worried in our little corner of the world.

But when we pray, "Lord, let me put up with my sister more" (and I'm not saying she's doing that, I'm just using it as an example), you simultaneously imbed the thought that your sister is a pain in your mind and that you are a saint for having to put up with her. If you're always praying, "Lord, let me forgive", you're reminding yourself what you have to forgive. If you concentrate on your problems, your problems become bigger.

When we pray through God's characteristics, though, and focus on Him, we see ourselves in a new light.

The key to really see ourselves is not to look in a mirror; it's to look at God.

That's when we see who we really are.

It's like the book of Isaiah. Isaiah spent five chapters laying down curses on everyone who could think of, basically saying, "Woe to you!". Then he had a vision of God and he said, "Woe to me!".

To make a real change in our lives we need to focus on God, not on us. I'm not saying you should never speak your request to God; of course we should. But the focus of the majority of our prayers should be on Him, not on us.

If you haven't seen it yet, I'm going to repost this video clip where I talk about a similar thing. Maybe this will say it better:

This week, that is the focus of what I am teaching my girls. What do you think?

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To Love, Honor and Vacuum

At 2:53 PM , Blogger pedalpower said…

Great post...we've had the same "it's just the way I am" discussion in our home too. I love your focus on God and the way He is. Prayer and practice...I tell my daughter and son to do some little thing (either physical or in your way of thinking) towards not being "that way." Practicing and praying your way to being the way God wants you to be.

Now I'm trying to remember all this for my quirks I need to work on too!


At 6:00 PM , Blogger Mel said…

i agree that our greatest strengths are double edged sword. I love the way you are focusing on it.


At 7:56 PM , Blogger Sandy said…

Hi Sheila, when our kids try to say "that is just the way I am" we stop them and don't let them allow them to go down that path. It's a cop-out! Don't you think?
Great post, thanks for sharing your heart. Don't you just love these conversations we're having with our kids? Great focus!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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