Children Learn What They Live

When I was growing up, I remember a small poster that made the move with us from house to house. It was usually somewhere in the kitchen or taped to the laundry room door. On the poster was a poem called “Children Learn What They Live”. It was originally written in 1954. What I liked about the poem was how simple it seemed at the time. 

Children Learn What They Live

by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
he learns to find love in the world.

When I would read the poem as a child, I didn’t always feel that I was living in the positive home described there. I sometimes thought aspects of my life were more like the negative ones presented. I often felt that love for me was conditional.  If I got good grades, was polite, and performed well (singing or playing piano) I would earn the approval of those I wanted most to love me.

Let me say that I had a fairly normal home life.  I grew up in a family with two parents who were married, both worked, and we lived a middle-class lifestyle. I have one sister, we almost always had a dog, and my Dad was in the military so we moved several times during my school years. We went to church sometimes. My parents were strict, and my Mother was a stickler for good manners.

My feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem may have had some roots in my upbringing, but I wonder why I still struggle with the same feelings many years later. Why do the same thoughts about being “less than” and “not enough” still swirl around in my head?

Do you fight that battle in your mind too? Are you having a hard time taking control of your thoughts to bring them in line with God’s truth for us? Have you ever considered that we aren’t enough on our own? And that is exactly where God wants us to be.

God wants us to realize we need Him in order to be capable, confident, and complete.

So whether or not we grew up in the most positive of environments, and whether or not we have had years of counseling to overcome what we believed about ourselves as children, we can know that our true identity and significance is determined by God, through Christ.

We only have to accept it and believe it.

Take that to heart today. Soak it in. With Christ, we are enough.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  Ephesians 1:4 

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