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The Heart of the Problem is a Problem with the Heart

Room 1

It doesn’t matter where you live, what type of school system you’re in, or who your kids’ friends are, there’s no foolproof way of avoiding middle-school meanness. That’s not to say the meanness doesn’t start before middle school, nor that it ends before high school—or stop in adulthood, for that matter. But by and large, the drama, the cattiness, the name-calling, the online bullying, the rejecting, and the outright hateful words and behavior start blowing up big time around middle school.

We’re often left wondering why our kids who used to be so well behaved—kids who should know better—are behaving so terribly. And how do we handle it? Whether our child is the victim, is caught in the middle, or is the one misbehaving (we’re fooling ourselves if we think our kids never fall into this category), parenting through the drama and meanness is hard.

External factors like family, environment, friend groups, and life circumstances may contribute, but they aren’t the primary problem. The primary problem is our kids’ hearts, and our hearts too—it’s a universal human heart problem. Therefore, we must consider the heart to properly address unkindness.

If we only deal with the external behavior (and never acknowledge our charred, inner world) we’ll never effectively change what’s really going on.

As we chisel beneath the behavior, we discover what’s driving it. External factors can influence, yes, but we act according to the inclinations of our hearts. And all of us have a natural bent toward sin.

When we understand our true diagnosis as an across-the-board condition, we can start from a place of compassion with our own kids, and toward others. When our child knows this is our condition, too—that we are in the same sin-ridden boat—they’ll be more receptive to our probing questions. This shared need for grace gives us patience and gentleness as we help them uncover the root of their behavior. The heart is the driving force behind why any of us do what we do. So whatever is ruling our hearts—whatever means most to us—will be the influential tug that determines our words and deeds, our motives and agendas.

Conversation Starters

Is man inherently good or evil?


In this room you see an all-black, burnt out, frame of a house. Since home is where the heart is, this charred, dark shell of a home symbolizes the wicked, broken hearts all of us as humans possess. Yes, we have the capacity for good, but our default wiring and infra-structure is predisposed to evil. In Jeremiah 17:9 it says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” People have a natural inclination to sin, and therein lies the root of our problems.

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