Have you ever worked with a child who’s thrown a tantrum? Has a counselee yelled at you? Did they hit a wall or break something? Have you ever had a counselee threaten to hurt you, himself, or someone else?
At times, you will encounter a man, woman, or child who is using fear to manipulate the counselor/parent into giving them what they want.
While working at Victory Academy for Boys, I’d have up to ten children living in my home (this included my own). There were many times I was afraid that a boy might hurt someone if he were corrected. Other times I found myself avoiding my counseling/parenting responsibilities because I didn’t want to have to deal with the 45-minute-long hassle that would follow if I addressed the child’s behavior.
I know what it’s like to counsel out of fear, I know well how to parent out of fear, but I also know that neither pleases God. Thankfully, He has a plan.
1. As Christians, we must never fear man.
Proverbs 29:25 warns us that, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”
We need never fear what our counselees may do because we serve a God Who is far greater and more powerful than they. Our homes and bodies may bear the marks of a wrathful child, but we need never be afraid of that child because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
Doing what God commands is always wiser than doing what man demands because the consequence for disobeying God is always worse. God has filled the New Testament with one anothers that include counseling and teaching and reproving and rebuking in truth and love (Proverbs 19:25; Luke 17:3; Romans 15:14; Ephesians 4:15; 1 Timothy 4:11; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20). We’ve been called by the sovereign King of the universe to intentionally and premeditatedly parent our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Refusing to submit to God because we’re afraid of how our counselee might respond is allowing the counselee to dethrone Christ in our lives.
In Luke 12:4 Jesus admonishes His followers, “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.” The God-Man (Who would eventually allow His own creation to crucify Him) poses the question, “What’s the worst they can do?”
But then He continues in verse 5, “I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” My friends, there is far more reason to fear God when we’re not faithfully counseling in truth and love than there is to fear our counselees when we are.
But Jesus continues, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
In verses 4 and 5 Jesus just told us to fear God, but then in verse 6 He illustrates that if we are followers of Christ, we have nothing to fear because God loves us. Romans 8:28 sums up this lesson well—when we love God, believe His Word, and are actively trying to fulfill His plan in our lives, we have nothing about which to worry. God will orchestrate it all for our greatest good and His greatest glory. But if we do not obey the Lord, it would be wise to fear the consequences of sin.
So, the next time you’re tempted to ignore a counselee’s sin or dread the moment your child wakes or flinch when the person in front of you gets angry, remember that your God is bigger and more important.
We are never to fear man because God is preeminent—He is to have first place in our counseling and parenting (Colossians 1:18). And for that reason:
2. As Christians, we must never negotiate with those who manipulate.
Acts 5:29 “We must obey God rather than men.”
If my child or counselee is seeking to manipulate me, I mustn’t allow him to dictate the conversation, the activity, the bedtime, the electronics, the rules, the discipline, the friends, the schedule, the consequences, or especially my emotions. When someone is acting like a terror, she has no right to dictate anything because she isn’t demanding God’s will.
Now, I’m not saying that biblical counselors shouldn’t allow counselees to take ownership of their counseling. I am not saying that within the normal context of a functioning, Christ-honoring home that I don’t allow my kids to have a significant say in the activities we do. What I am saying is that anyone who uses terror tactics to usurp authority does not have the right to dictate what’s to be done or how it’s to be done. Instead, the counselor/parent must stand calmly in God’s truth and be consistent within His commands.
In Psalm 140:6, David beseeched the Lord not to “grant … the desires of the wicked.” This is very easy to apply to the person in front of us, however, in my attempt to avoid negotiating with the him, I must never resort to terror tactics myself. I cannot glorify God if I have wicked desires. If I lose control, threaten, act unlovingly in any way, or otherwise manipulate the counselee into listening to me, I’m sinning just as much as they are. I must be humble, gracious, loving, patient, and kind as I resolutely submit to God’s plan.
Yes, sometimes counseling and parenting can be scary, but God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). We never have to fear our counselees whether they be our own children or someone else’s parent. God is in control! And if that doesn’t flood your soul with hope and peace, nothing ever will.
It’s true that God never promised our counseling would be comfortable, but He has promised to give us a way to escape every temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). Your counselees may try various terror tactics in the counseling room, your children may try to manipulate you today, but don’t be afraid. Don’t compromise. Lovingly stand firm in the truth of God’s Word because God wants you to sacrifice your counseling and parenting to Him as your reasonable act of worship (Ephesians 4:15; Romans 12:1).