Paul Tripp on How Parents Can Model Mercy
Below is a Q&A excerpt from The Mercy Journey for Families, a workbook included in The Mercy Journey collection. These insights accompany new Barna research exploring the role of mercy and forgiveness in practicing Christians’ households.
Dr. Paul David Tripp is a pastor, international speaker and best selling author with more than 20 books on Christian living, including the award-winning Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family.
Barna: What are some ways that heads of households can treat mercy and compassion (not just efficiency, comfort and so on) as important parts of their decision-making?
Paul: As a Christian parent, you can’t reduce parenting down to having a clear set of rules, accompanied by a corresponding set of punishments. When parents do this, they tend to use “tools”—such as guilt, fear, shame, manipulation, etc.—that don’t produce the environment that God intended for parents to foster. In moments of correction, I shouldn’t be asking myself what the child has done and what punishment they deserve, or what response I want from them in the specific situation. Rather, I am asking a larger, more heart-oriented question: “What is God seeking to reveal right here, right now in the heart and life of my child, and how can I be part of it?”I am not just focused on “fixing ” the situation and holding the child accountable, but on helping them take another step in the life-long process of change in their heart that will result in changes in the way this child thinks, decides, speaks and acts.
Barna: What encouragement would you give to parents to embrace their own need for mercy—even from themselves?
Paul: It is vital to remember that Jesus came to earth and measured up in every way precisely because God knew we would not measure up. God is not surprised by a parent’s failure and has already extended to them his forgiving and enabling grace. You have been blessed by the relationships and help of the body of Christ of which you are part. You do not have to be self-sufficient. Seek the advice of wise and seasoned parents, find people who are willing to be available to comfort and encourage you when you are distraught and be willing to admit your struggle when you’re going through a rough patch. Finally, find families who can extend your family and, in moments, be surrogate parents to your children.