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The Psychology of Dominion

I have a sixteen year old son who does not like being told what to do. He’s actually a very pleasant son, very funny (though overly sarcastic, which he must have got from his mother for I would never be sarcastic myself), amazingly helpful around the house, and an independently home schooled kid this year. I hardly have to involve myself at all.

In fact, when I do involve myself, he can get pretty testy. I, of course, being the father, whoop him good when he doesn’t treat me with reverence, awe, and deference every time I speak to him.

Or not.

I have no desire to provoke my son to anger, and I think one of the best ways to do so is to continue to parent them after they don’t need or want it.

When the God of Genesis made the first man He said: Let them have dominion.

To understand the Judaeo-Christian view of man, one of the first things to remember is that he was created to rule. This is, to misapply Dr. Seuss, a wonderful, awful idea.

First, Biblical dominion is nothing like the materialistic dominion of the modern, whether we mean capitalist or socialist or some other Enlightenment reduction of man and cosmos.

Biblical dominion has one object: the blessedness of the ruled. Biblical dominion means blessing and therefore responsibility-opportunity. Responsibility brings no joy when it it reduced to slavishly reporting to others, as in most school work. It brings great joy when it means bringing its object to fruitfulness. This is the dominion for which the soul of man was made and in which she delights.

Second, dominion must not be abandoned. The things over which we have just dominion depend on us for their well-being. To abdicate is to curse. Perhaps this is most dramatic in parent-child relationships. But maybe it is more obviously illustrated in master-dog relationships. The untrained dog is the unhappy dog.

Perhaps a less obvious reason that dominion must not be abandoned hovers before us in the ghostly and ghastly youth culture we have produced and spread around the world. Once upon a time, a typical 16 year old could run his own household and farm. Now his vision reaches the heights of his X-box.

Young men need to take dominion. If they cannot do so in just and noble ways, they will do so in unjust and ignoble ways. When your sixteen year old son rebels against your instructions, he should not do that. He should honor you.

On the other hand, it may also be true that you should not be instructing him. By robbing him of his just dominion, you may be removing his chest. You may be communicating your lack of confidence in him to him. You may be dishonoring him and provoking him to wrath. The transfer of dominion is not optional.

Of course, our circumstances make the previous paragraph confusing in its application. Our circumstances are not aligned with the nature of the Divine Image you are raising. Nevertheless, the principle cannot be forgotten: that child of yours was made by God to have dominion. Are you willing to let him take it, or do you feel he needs you to protect him from the consequences of his mistakes. If the latter, consider the possibility that you are no longer blessing your child.

I believe that the failure to recognize the psychology of dominion, to coin a phrase, is one of the fundamental reasons that our civilization is on the ropes. “We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

Prepare your children to take their just dominion so they can bless those they rule. The whole cosmos depends on it.

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