My interview with interior decorator Susie Fitler was deeply satisfying. (see July 7 post for full audio interview.) I came away with lots of great things to ponder about the creative journey. But one point stuck out to me and has lead me to ask myself some provocative questions.
Susie talked about giving yourself permission to be in process, and by doing so, giving your kids permission to be process. In other words, allowing yourself to make mistakes and learn from them, and modeling that to others. In terms of interior decorating, Susie used the example of “putting that nail in the wall”. She is always surprised at how many people are afraid to put a nail in the wall for fear of making a mistake. As a result they have wall hangings, art pieces, and the such hidden away. She encourages her clients to be brave, take a risk, and just put that nail in the wall.
Why are we so afraid to make mistakes, especially with our creativity? Sure, there is a lot of pressure for perfection these days where our lives are on public display via social media. And there is an innate instinct to avoid vulnerability that kicked in when Adam and Eve hid their nakedness. But I think the root of all this is the Fear of Man. Hang with me as we dive into a bit of theology!
Mankind started out creating with freedom and courage (Adam’s first job was creating names for all the animals, for goodness’ sake!). Creativity was an expression of obedience to and communion with God. The only fear in the garden was the appropriate Fear of God, who deemed everything ‘good.’
Then the big shift happened. Lies told mankind that God wasn’t good and He didn’t have the final word on what was good. Pride made mankind shrink back from creative expression for fear of being exposed. The Fear of Man became the gatekeeper.
And that’s one thing we’re always fighting against in our creativity. What if no one likes it? What if it’s not good? What if I make a mistake?
Part of our ongoing redemption through Christ is reversing the shift that happened in Eden. We have to shift from the Fear of Man back to the Fear of God. If we have the proper perspective on our creativity–that it’s essential to life and is an offering to God–then we should no longer worry what others think of it, but rather we should find freedom in God’s opinion of it: it is good.
As parents we delight in our kids’ art. They give us their scribbles and paint splatters, and we hang them on the fridge. In the early stages of childhood they are so eager to create and show us; there’s no fear because they know we will gush over their work and deem it ‘good.’ So does our heavenly Father with our offering, if only we will let go of our fears. I suppose this could be one example of having ‘child-like faith.’
So now I have to ask myself the tough questions:
Am I willing to make mistakes in my creativity?
Do I let my kids see me making mistakes?
Do I create an atmosphere at home that gives us all permission to make mistakes?
The answer to this last question in particular can have many layers from spiritual to practical.
Spiritual: When my kids mess up, make the wrong choice, or disobey, how do I react? I’m guilty of yelling at them, getting frustrated, etc. Rather I need to model God’s parenting: chastising, leading them to repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Practical: Is our home set up in ways conducive to creating, exploring, and making messes? While I like our home to be aesthetically pleasing, I need to be practical. The table and chairs in our homeschool room is no looker, so the pencil marks, paint splatters, scissor-knicks, and Sharpie marker can only improve its look, right? I won’t fuss over the dirty feet smudges on the couch because it only cost me $20 from the thrift store. I buy a lot of craft supplies and Play-Doh from the Dollar Tree to save money and allow my kids to create with reckless abandon.
But most importantly, it’s my perspective that affects our creativity the most. If I’m to nurture an atmosphere at home that encourages creativity and gives permission for mistakes, I must first do the same.