I am a violent person.
Well, I was a violent person and at times still desire to be one. By violent, I do not mean that I killed someone or beat someone up (except that one bully in the fourth grade), but that I struggled for years with fits of rage, during which I have thrown plates, punched walls, kicked doors, and even slapped, pinched, and pushed my husband. The early years of my marriage, a particularly angry and hurting time in my life, were filled with episodes of such unbridled rage that the ONLY relief came by hitting, punching, kicking, screaming or breaking stuff. Thankfully, my anger has dulled since those days as I began the long arduous process of healing from childhood wounds. I am happy to say that those uncontrolled behaviors have been tamed (now if I could only get my tongue under control!). But to this day, my husband reserves the skin on his elbow to offer me a "pre-approved" pinching spot to help me out when I am on the brink because when I get angry, the desire to act out in physically destructive ways rears its ugly head.
All that to say, I know myself. I, of all people, absolutely cannot give myself permission to spank under the guise of biblical mandates and loving discipline. It would not be so. Even though my mind and heart are wedded to the ideals of nonviolence and grace-based everything, I still live in a body that likes violence and likes to see people get what is coming to them.
So while the nonviolent and insanely gracious teachings of Jesus have won my heart, my base instincts prefer a theology of retribution, retaliation and vengeance. The teachings of Jesus have won me over precisely because of this reality. "Turn the other cheek" is beyond beautiful to me because I know firsthand how ugly the desires behind "an eye for an eye" really are.
My son is nine months old, and already there have been times when he cries in the middle of the night or will not settle down to eat or be changed that I want to give him a good whack. But this desire has nothing to do with discipline. This desire comes from the part of me that is selfish--the part that is put out and frustrated because MY sleep is being interrupted, because MY time is being infringed upon and because my innocent, precious son can't "get with the program." The desire to whack stems from the desire to relieve frustration. That is the ugly truth. But these are fleeting desires that quickly pass as I remind myself of the teachings of Jesus, the beauty and innocence of children, and my own shortcomings. The theology that preaches spanking would, in my case, foolishly nourish those momentary selfish desires and justify them under the guise of discipline. So, while biblical interpretation plays a major role in transforming my opinions about spanking, this decision is also informed by the painful awareness of my own weaknesses in this area.
I don't know what other people experience while spanking their children, but I do know that when Christians preach spanking as the only godly form of discipline, it puts Christians like me in a very precarious situation. I am not alone in this. When I began this series, I started by announcing my husband and I were coming out of the closet because choosing not to spank is a very controversial decision in church world. I have received quite a few e-mails from Christians who feel pressured, bullied, and biblically-guilted into spanking by their friends, churches and christian culture in general. I hope for someone, somewhere, my story and struggle can be a source of encouragement. And hopefully, the Church can better foster open and honest dialogue about this issue and the possible repercussions of spanking in the hands of imperfect parents like myself.