I grew up in a small town in Michigan. After getting married, my husband and I spent time in Chicago, the Northeast and the South. Each area of the country seems to view authority a little differently.
For instance, in the Northeast my husband was careful not to disclose that he’s a pastor before getting to know someone. The title of pastor does not always evoke pleasant thoughts in that region of the country; it’s better to establish credibility before revealing your line of work.
In the South, however, the title of pastor immediately gives you authority and the position seems to come with automatic respect. So my husband still avoids telling someone he’s a pastor before getting to know them. Automatic authority isn’t his cup of tea.
Growing up, my parents taught me that just because someone has authority, it doesn’t mean they’re right (yes, they included themselves in that). I learned that while I had to listen to them, their authority didn’t afford them infallibility.
Infallibility is reserved for God and His Word.
But is that what we’re teaching our children? I realize most of us don’t actually use the word infallible to describe ourselves, but what do our words and actions teach our kids about authority?
Do we automatically take someone’s side because of their title or label? Or do we base our thoughts on the truth? Many a kid is heartbroken when his parents take the teacher’s side merely due to the title “teacher.” And there are parents who set up their kids for problems later in life because they always take the child’s side – usually because of the label “MY child.”
Are we acting like we’re infallible?
Can we admit when we’re wrong? Do we say sorry to our kids when we mess up? Can we show proper emotion in front of others? Do we allow our kids to ask sincere questions, even if these questions challenge our viewpoint? Or are we afraid these things will diminish our authority?
Authority is a tricky thing. It’s a good and necessary component of life. As parents, we must have authority over our children. As citizens of this country, we must submit to those in authority over us. But we must carefully examine our view of it. Let’s not let authority equal infallibility. Let’s not let authority diminish our humanity.