It might only happen once. It might happen more than we care to admit or maybe it’s just hateful behavior. But here’s what I think it means.
It started out as a simple disagreement about who’s turn it was to clean the kitchen or who changed the kitty litter last or who left the emptied art box scattered all over the floor. It’s the way most arguments begin, a real who done it. It’s not uncommon in our house and while I don’t enjoy rocking the boat, sometimes the boat is a big mess and I need help cleaning it up.
Most arguments like these aren’t really about undone tasks, selfishness or even bad attitudes. They are about control. The kind our kids fight for and the kind parents need to display. I could feel my child’s anger turn into fury, like a violent orchestra about to crescendo. And that’s when the words were spit out.
I hate you.
Automatic hands clamped over both our mouths.
Apparently neither the hearer nor the doer could believe it had come to this.
I can remember when I said them to my mom, the white rage I felt two seconds before the deadly words escaped and the slow minutes after when I longed to take them back. In that exact moment, I understood why her face fell and she slowly walked away, shoulders slumped.
I took a step back, away from my child, the same one who I begged God for and gained 54 pounds for and then risk my life pushing into this world, now pushing me away. This very same child who I would kill for, killing me with words.
I could see the regret already, the way we try to take back words that fly like piercing arrows.
You don’t hate me, I whispered.
I read the raw emotions on my child’s face--I hate the way I’m feeling right now. I hate the heated words between us. I hate the way I’m acting. I hate that you won’t listen. I hate me right now.
I step two steps toward my child. And I choose to look past the harsh words and look into the heart. I see a hurting child there.
What they really mean when they say they hate your or act like they do:
- This isn’t About You: There’s a battle raging in our kids from time to time. It’s the same one we fight, flesh against spirit. And even though our kids hurt us, they trust us enough to show their raw feelings.
- They Need You Now More Than Ever: Our natural response is to react, to hurt them back with our words. Don’t. Resist the urge to engage. When you want to push them away for hurting you, instead pull them closer.
- Look past the behavior and into their heart: Throughout the Bible, God tells us that behavior–our speech, our sinful actions, etc–are a direct implication of what’s in our heart. When your child is struggling, angry, hurtful….look past the behavior and discover what’s in their heart. Often you will find a wound that you can help heal.
My kids and I have hurt each other with words. But at the time time, we’ve used our words to heal each other. We’ve spoken life into dead places and encouragement into brokenness.
I hate you is powerful. But I love you defeats it.