A Little Healthy Competition, Anyone?

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.


I read this scripture this morning, and I wanted to dig a little deeper. I’ve heard it a thousand times, and though as a teenager I wanted to throw it in my father’s face on more than one occasion (yeah, that would’ve ended well!), I’ve never really understood it.

Can it really be a sin to aggravate your kids? What if your kid is just really irritable and you’re trying to protect them? I wanted the full story this morning, so I looked up the Greek definitions for the words, “aggravate,” and, “discouraged.” Things cleared up a little for me.

Aggravate: provoke, contend, debate, stir up

Discouraged: to be disheartened, dispirited, broken in spirit

Sometimes (okay, a lot) we let past insecurities manifest in our present relationships. Or, maybe I am alone in that? This verse encourages fathers (but we moms aren’t off the hook!) not to allow a spirit of one-upmanship to creep into their relationship with their children. Kids can become an easy source of an ego boost when they don’t know how to do anything, and we know “everything,” (right?) but it is important not to compete with our children. Competition between parent and child should be for the child’s gratification and encouragement; not to make us feel good that “Dad can still whoop Junior.” If an activity is feeding our pride, it should come under suspicion. God’s not crazy about people’s pride…

This verse says that continually receiving a message that a child is not able to compete with the parent will cause the child to lose heart in himself. This can make for a difficult transition into adulthood. Interacting with our children with encouragement and honesty, but without aggression, while checking our insecurities at the door is a balance we might all hope to strike. Our kids are not here to fulfill our needs, be there for us, or fill the empty spots in our lives. We are to sacrifice for them, and work through our insecurities without relying on them to make it happen.

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