Go Stand in the Corner: A Convert Reflects on Discipline

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Go Stand in the Corner: A Convert Reflects on Discipline

I grew up in the 1980s as part of a large Roman Catholic family. My grandmother had nine children, and counting cousins, we were a tribe. Any grown up member of the tribe could dole out punishments and advice when we children misbehaved. There were more severe consequences if we did something very bad, like saying curse words or hitting, but most any other bad behavior warranted the same punishment: “Go stand in the corner!”

We put our noses to the corner, and we were told to think about what we’d done. This variation on a time out was meant to give us an opportunity to develop empathy. In reality, the best it did was let us calm down by boring us into repentance. The worst it did was let us work up a new head of steam if we spent our time convincing ourselves that we were unjustly punished.

When I became a mother, I knew there was no way I was going to make my children stand in the corner. I had spent most of my time in corners thinking about how mean it was to make me stand there, and I figured it was a waste of time that taught nothing. But what I hadn’t counted on is that we would be on our way to Orthodoxy by the time we had children. Gradually, icons filled corners in our home as my iconographer husband advanced in his training. We converted to Greek Orthodoxy, received the sacrament of Crowning, added stefana and holy water and blessed oils to the prayer corner. Icons mingled with censers and bells and candles. And one day, when my 6 year old had an especially sharp mouth on him, I pointed at the iconostasis and heard myself say those words I had said I never would.

“Go stand in the corner!”

But this wasn’t the corner of my childhood, and it wasn’t a punishment. I walked to corner with him and made my cross. He made his, too. I lifted down the icon of the Resurrection for him to see up close. “What do you see?” I asked. He told me. Christ was holding the hands of Adam and Eve as He brought them out of hell. “If Christ did this for everyone, male and female, then you will respect everyone, including your sister. God loves you and loves her so much that He went to hell to fetch you out. You need to remember that and act kindly.” His little chin crumpled, and he nodded. I hugged him, and we venerated the icons together. He made up with his sister, and peace was restored to the house…for a little while.

Standing in the corner is a pattern now, the inversion of the punishment of my childhood. The icons draw us into the rhythms of God’s love in the Church, emptying to be filled. It’s a joy to stand in the corner and bask in the beauty of holiness. A candle of peace lights in our hearts when we tend the flames before the icons. It’s deep nurture to step away from the messes of daily life and step toward the Kingdom of God. In the corner, we are taught instead of punished.

 

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Summer Kinard is a Greek Orthodox Christian author. She holds…
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