Linda’s family lives in an affluent neighborhood with plush evergreens, hedges, and an enclosed swimming pool.
In some ways, this lushness excites Linda and her mother. In other ways, it galls them, because all is not well in the midst of this luxury.
Linda’s dad is an insurance representative in four states and is away from home much of the time. He gives his wife a specified allowance each month, tells her exactly how to spend it, and checks up on her spending regularly.
Linda hears her mother and father argue on a regular basis. The issues are usually the same—his long absences from home, not paying any attention to Linda, and his tight-fisted control over the money.
THE ARGUMENTS ARE ALWAYS THE SAME
Recently, Linda and her mom were discussing Linda’s latest problem.
“Mother, I just have to get some new dresses. Let’s face it, kids at this school dress like dreams. I’ll never be accepted if I can’t keep in step. Just two weeks from tonight, we’re having a party, and I haven’t a thing….”
“Linda, you know your father insists that I buy you too many clothes as it is.”
“LINDA, DON’T CRY!”
“Isn’t there something we can do, mother? I’ll just die if the kids won’t accept me. I just know I won’t be invited to another party unless….”
Linda began sobbing.
Linda’s mother usually yielded to her husband’s instructions, even if she inwardly resented them.
This time she rebelled and made a decision she knew her husband would object to.
“Linda, don’t cry. I’ll try to cut down on something else so you can have more new clothes. I hope your father won’t notice. So be careful. If he finds out, there will be trouble.”
“Oh, I will, mother. Don’t worry.”
Their plan worked. Before the party, Linda had some new clothes. As she dressed, Linda thought of her father.
Would he notice and question her?
She needn’t have worried about that, though. Linda’s father was much too preoccupied to notice her clothes.
DAD MAKES AN OBSERVATION
One night, however, when Linda came home wearing a new dress, her father did remark:
“You look very nice in that dress.”
“Thank you, dad,” she replied, as she felt herself beginning to blush. Nothing more was said.
In her room, Linda had some serious misgivings about their scheme. Then, as she remembered the way the kids had been impressed with her new attire, she said to herself:
Oh, well. I guess all’s fair in love and war—as long as you don’t get caught. It’s all dad’s fault anyway. If he’d give mom more money she wouldn’t have to cheat.
THE PRINCIPAL CALLS
A month of seeming serenity passed. Then, Linda’s mother’s world caved in. On a Friday, the school principal phoned, asking about Linda’s health.
“I’m so sorry she’s had the flu. I’ve received your note.” When the principal stopped talking and hung up, Linda’s mom was numb with disbelief.
Tears filled her eyes. She sat down. She hadn’t written any note. Linda hadn’t been sick.
Linda had been skipping school. But why? Why would she do such a thing to me? We are so close!
Linda’s mother decided to do something about it. She brought Linda to me.
Several consultations followed with all the members of the family. There was ill-will, selfishness, and deception in the hearts of all of them.
Linda’s father was unreasonable. There was plenty of money available. As it turned out, his wife did have plenty of money to spend. The issue turned out to be how to spend it, not how much.
Linda did have many dresses. It was not a question of enough dresses—only more of the same.
What then is the point of the illustration? It is this. Linda’s mother was chipping away at her own self-respect by purchasing more dresses and entering into a conspiracy with her daughter to deceive her husband. She had the ground cut out from under her when she learned that her daughter was also deceiving her by skipping school. How could she deal with her daughter’s deception when she, herself, was deceiving her husband?
THREE PEOPLE: EACH HURTING HIMSELF
Linda’s mother justified her own choices by telling herself she was being a considerate mother—exactly the opposite of her inconsiderate husband.
He was, indeed, an inconsiderate husband and a disinterested father. His world revolved around himself and his own interests. He did not really need to be away as often as he was. He justified his choices by telling himself that his business demanded the life style he chose for himself.
Linda was becoming a skilled manipulator, doing as she pleased, and she justified her choices by convincing herself that she was only doing what was necessary to be accepted by her friends because she was a neglected child.
I once read a description that applies to all three:
Bobby is bounded on the north by Bobby, on the south by Bobby, and on the east and west by Bobby.
This family would benefit greatly if they would be guided by some biblical principles like this one:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).