Dealing with defeat

OK, so I’ll admit. I’m not looking forward to writing this post. I am more of a hopeful and optimistic person. But, sadly, defeat is real. So, here it goes.

As a family, you will face defeat. That is, if you haven’t experienced it already! (and I’m guess you have….) We live in an imperfect world, so there is hurt and let down. We need to know how to deal with it in a healthy way to make our families stronger. Because if we dwell on defeat, our house becomes unhealthy. It is a negative environment and WILL affect your kids, whether you want it to or not.

In my own personal life (and my husband’s), we have faced defeat most often in the area of jobs/finance. This is probably the best place to face defeat. You could face defeat in relationships (bad marriage, strained parent/kid relationship). You could also face defeat in health. We have had a few scares in that area-  a febrile seizure with one of our infants, one child born with a hole in her heart, bad case of eczema…. but I consider those to be so small compared to what others have had to face. 

My husband and I had kids at a young age. With that, comes plenty of energy to parent, but a severe lack of money! My husband had no experience in his field when he graduated college, right about the time of the birth of our first son. So here we were, trying to find a first time job for my husband while I tried to stay at home. We ended up having to move totally across the country for a job! After a few years, we needed to be near family (after the birth of twins…), but he couldn’t find a job in his degree field. Do you know that in almost 14 years of marriage, he has only worked in his degree field for 3 of those years? Along with that comes great financial stress. It really does seem that every time we start to get ahead on finances, somebody ends up in the hospital!

My defeat is similar. I teach math, but I don’t think that is what I am called to do. I really believe I am supposed to be a family/children pastor. You would think with a background in teaching and 4 kids of my own that I would be well qualified. Nope. I have faced defeat after defeat with job interviews. And the thing about me- I am insanely passionate about things I love. That means I am “all in” and super upbeat and exciting to be around. That is, until I face defeat. Then I take it super personally.When our brain can’t make since of defeat, it feels all the more painful. So basically, for 4 years I have felt like I was “floating”- trying to make do until I am able to do what I feel called to do. And apparently I’m picky. Because I need to work at a church that thinks outside of the box and loves on community, one that believes in me enough to let me do what I feel passionate about, one that is all about making God’s Kingdom great (and not just making their church big).  It makes it hard to put down roots where you are. I can’t go buy a house in Palm Beach if God is going to call us somewhere else in a few years. 

So how do we deal with defeat in our family? It would be really easy for me to mope around every time I don’t get a job. And maybe I do, just a little. But that’s the thing about emotions. I have seen so many parents who do apparently do not know how to do deal with strong emotion properly. Here is what I try to do:

1. Admit it hurts. Cry if you need to. Get it out! I dish on my poor husband. If you aren’t married, maybe you can talk with your parent, sibling or good friend. We aren’t made to keep these emotions in. If you don’t, you are more likely to hold on to the pain too long.

2. Don’t take it out on any member of your family. Maybe it is someone in your family who is sick, causing the stress. You can’t take it out on them. If someone at work is being a total jerk, you can’t be angry at your spouse or kid over that. Put emotions where they belong. No matter how many times I don’t get a job or a raise, I can’t blame my husband or kids- they aren’t the reason for this!

3. Pray over the defeat. And be REAL! I have asked God “What on earth is going on here?!?!?” It is totally OK to admit to Him that you don’t understand or are hurt. And, as much as it hurts, defeat is God directing us in some way. I don’t know how that applies in your situation. Maybe sit and think/pray over it. 

4. Decide where to go from there. It may be that you have no choice in the matter! For me, when I don’t get a job, I am just stuck where I am. Do I continue applying? Do I give up? If your marriage is going bad, decide to make it work. If your kids are rebelling, decide they are worth fighting for. But in every choice, decide that you won’t let defeat ruin you.

As parents, we can choose to be selfish. I have seen my share of this! They let their emotion scare their kids. (By the way, anger isn’t the only emotion that scares kids! A depressed mom or dad scares them, too!) They dwell on what they don’t have. They let greed eat at them until they are just a horrible person to be around. But as parents, we have little eyes watching. How we deal with defeat teaches our kids how to deal with defeat. So if you are an emotional wreck, don’t be surprised when junior is a wreck when he doesn’t make a team, or your daughter is a pill because she didn’t get what she wanted. I have seen way too many parents throw “grown up tantrums” and they don’t seem to understand why their kids are a hot mess. Umm, they are copying your example!

Decide that you won’t let defeat ruin your family. Decide that whatever it is keeping you down, that you won’t let it shape your family in a negative way. If you are dealing with a major issue, get help! Dealing with cancer or death, on the verge of divorce, eating disorder, abuse, etc..- that needs some major help and we can’t just decide that we are big enough to handle that on our own. Be open with your kids about what has defeated you and talk as a family how  to go on from there. My kids know when I don’t get a job. They know when we are holding our breath until the next paycheck goes through. They know we struggle so that they can see how to handle struggles. Is it always easy to be transparent? No. Sometimes I would rather deal with defeat all by myself. But as parents, we need to always be looking how we can teach our kids to be healthy adults. 

I hope this helps. And, I would love to here your story. What is your defeat? How do you deal with it? Do you notice a difference in your kids when you share struggles and try to deal with them in a healthy manner?

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