When to Adjust Standards Without Violating Your Principles

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been talking about standards in the home, and honestly, I have received a lot of great communication back. All of the notes represent a view that recognizes a need for standards and boundaries in the home, but at what point do parents adjust or relax standards.

First, I want you to understand how I’m defining standards. A standard is a physical manifestation of principles and values. Standards must have principles or something deeper to anchor them. Once a standard comes unhinged from a principle, standards digress into legalistic structures that are a weight rather than helps.

Once a standard comes unhinged from a principle, standards digress into legalistic structures that are a weight rather than helps.

This is what happened to the Pharisees. Standards became idols and status symbols rather than representative of a genuine love for God. Over time their humility in serving God became entitlement. And, they thought they deserved redemption because of what they did rather than what they believed.

I want to tell you story of how this played out in our own home in one specific area.

I gave my heart to the Lord when I was 24, and I was saved out of a pretty rough lifestyle that included a lot of alcohol and drugs. When I finally prayed the sinner’s prayer, I completely turned away from that lifestyle and everything in it. A certain type of music was the soundtrack of that my former life for me, and I wanted nothing to do with it, either. I destroyed and even burned CDs to get as far away from it as I could.

When we married and our children were born, Leslie and I developed a very conservative standard on music. Because of my background, my belief was that certain types of music directs people into certain lifestyles. I didn’t believe there was a causal relationship between music and drugs, but I certainly believed that certain kinds of music did encourage certain behavior. (The point here is not my standard on music so don’t get hung up on our music standards.)

One day when my oldest son was about 15 years old, I heard him taking a shower and singing. The music he was playing in the bathroom was way more contemporary than we had historically allowed in our home, and I was a little taken aback by it.

So, when I heard my son singing, I listened. I wasn’t mad, but I was a little irritated that he would listen to that “type” of music. I listened for a while and was honestly awestruck by the depth of the words I was hearing him sing.

At this point, I had a choice. Do I get onto him for listening to a style of music that we didn’t typically listen to at home. Or, do I encourage the singing of these songs and even direct him to songs that are a little more contemporary than we had traditionally allowed but were thick with theology? I decided to do the latter. Why?

My thought was that rehearsing theology like this planted these truths into his mind and in his heart. There was no doubt in my mind that God was using these words in my son’s life. Therefore, by allowing the music that was actually a violation of a standard when the children were younger, I was being consistent with a principle and a goal that was important to us—that our children know and love God deeply.

Matter of fact, it was my belief that by banning the music my son was listening to and singing at the top of his lungs in the shower that I would be violating my principle of fostering a heart of love for Christ. Therefore, I didn’t just tolerate the music, I encouraged it; but we also directed his tastes toward songs thick with strong and Christ-centered theology.

I never regretted our conservative standards on music. Matter of fact, knowing what I know now and looking back over the last two decades, I would do the same. I would have more conservative and strict standards when the children were younger and loosen them as they got older and had a strong foundation to build their own standards on. I would put the standards in subjection to our principles and goals, and when a standard no longer served the purpose of teaching and directing our children in our principles, I would adjust the standard.

What many parents and churches do is they loosen their standards when keeping them gets too hard or the consequences of keeping a standard become greater than they are willing to endure. Then once things get too tough or they start to feel the pressure of persecution, they adjust their principles and drop their standards. Obviously, I think this is wrong.

Principles reside in the heart and mind. They represent things like faith and belief, charity and love, work ethic and generosity. Standards are physical actions based on our principles. A principle is a guiding light.

Standards can adjust and change, but adjusting principles is rare. It will happen, but when it does it is a big, life-altering deal. Again, back to my story above. My principle on music and my goal for my son’s heart did not change. But, my standard did because the standard was in subjection to my principle.

Finally, standards are not necessarily consistent across separate families. I’ll talk about this next week a little more because I want to bring up the concept of the “weaker brother” that Paul discusses in I Corinthians.

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