Parents Don't Be Deceived!Apr 07, 2022
A Public Response to One Who Wants to Encourage Parents Who Might Feel Regret About Their Role in Their Children's Religious Upbringing
Warning! This is a long post. But if you are the parent of deconstructing kids...if you are the grandparent of deconstructing kids who are parenting your grandchildren...if you are a deconstructing parent who feels grief and guilt over how you reared your children...OR, if you find yourself in conversations where you know your faith is being challenged but you can't, for the life of you, come up with a proper response, THIS IS FOR YOU!
Yesterday my friend Tammy shared a post she'd seen on Facebook and asked for my thoughts. To be honest, my initial response was frustration. I was frustrated that while I knew this guy's post was offensive to my faith; I agreed with so much of it that it left me disturbed that I couldn't come up with a simple response.
As I post my response here, I'm considering if I should go ahead and post it also on facebook. It's long but so was his. :) I'm not sure I'm skilled enough to banter back and forth with those who disagree with me. But given the time to think, ponder and pray--I think I can, actually, share my thoughts regarding Jim's. So here, nestled in the safety of my own website, is my public response to Jim Palmer’s post on Facebook.
Who is Jim Palmer? I'm not sure, as far as I can tell, he's just a guy writing and speaking and sharing his faith. Most likely a whole lot like me...just a gal writing and speaking and sharing my faith.
Jim's words are in black, my commentary is in blue.
I come across many parents who have left religion or currently in the throes of their deconstruction.
I am NOT one of those. I am rather a parent of adult children who’ve left religion or are currently in the throes of their deconstruction.
Many of them feel regret about religion's impact on their children and are struggling to know how to encourage a more sound and healthy spirituality in their kids.
Once a young man sat on my couch and bemoaned his mother “making” him memorize Scripture when he was a child. He was struggling to keep a job, and a marriage, because of his addiction to alcohol. His health was deteriorating, and his life was a mess. And he thought the Scripture his mom taught him as a child was the reason it was falling apart. I wondered how he could watch the lives of his parents (who were thriving in the midst of pain) and still think his way of living was offering him more freedom.
Most of us feel like we are falling short as parents. We all wish we had more time, more money, more (fill in the blank) to give our children.
But the greatest gift we can give our kids is love. None of us does it perfectly, of course. But our love is what will shape our sons and daughters more than anything else we do as parents.
What follows are several ways you can love your kids by helping them develop healthy independence and self-confidence.
I used to think that I was rearing children to be independent and self-confident. Then, while they were still young, I had an “ah ha” moment when I realized that the most loving thing I could give my kids was a healthy DEPENDENCE on God that came with sincere confidence in Christ. I shared this concept with my friend, Terra, whose heart resonated with mine, and she built an entire ministry around it!
Teach your kids it’s okay if they don’t adopt all your beliefs, values, views and opinions. Express confidence in their ability to work out their own ideas and points of view. Let them know they can question what they hear. Stress the importance of being open-minded and teach them the skill of critical thinking. Let your kids know that their deepest thoughts and feelings are worthy to be expressed, heard and understood.
It is okay if your kids don’t adopt all your beliefs, values, views and opinions. So many things are optional and so many ideas can be seen from different angles. I agree with Jim that we ought to stress the importance of being open-minded and to teach our children the skill of critical thinking, especially regarding prejudice and hate-speech, and other ways that we’re subtly tempted to belittle the value of other people, to respond flippantly to their pain, or to judge their hearts.
Creating an environment in your home that cultivates a safe place to express deep thoughts and feelings is extremely important. When your children feel heard and understood that translates as valued and loved.
It’s also important for us to teach our children that they get to choose who they will follow and what they will believe. To demand, or expect, or manipulate or maneuver them to embrace your beliefs, values, views and opinions is not loving, it’s oppressive.
In order to love our children well we must cultivate the understanding that they, and only they, get to choose whom they will follow and what belief system they will link their lives to.
And if we were in charge of the universe, and our lives were only lived in this present earthly dimension, we could stop right here and simply be happy that we’re all independent and “free.”
But because we believe “here and now” is merely the shadowlands of “then and there” where we get to live forever in loving harmony with God and others; we can’t stop here!
Because we believe that God created the world and breathed life into mankind, lifting us up to be His crown of creation; and we understand His incredible love story revealed to us through both His Word (written in the Bible, and lived in the person of Jesus) and His Spirit (the Spirit of the Living God who spoke the world into order, and who works in the hearts and minds of people who seek Him), then to treat the truth about Jesus as an option is to say, “I don’t care if you go to hell.” And no loving parent would ever say that to their children.
As Christian parents we teach our children the Bible stories and we introduce them to Jesus because we love our children and want them to live life to its fullest then go to heaven to live forever more when they die.
Create a safe space for your kids to be authentic and real. Don’t judge them based on what they “should” be thinking, feeling, and experiencing; get interested in what they actually are thinking, feeling, and experiencing. Don’t think you know everything. Be willing to see and understand the world through their eyes and experiences. The world is no longer what it was when you were growing up; it’s time to truly understand their world.
Yes and no. Yes, create a safe place for your kids to be authentic and real. But diligently teach them what is right and what is wrong and take the time to explain “why” when you can.
Be interested in what they are actually thinking, feeling and experiencing so that you can identify where they are leaning toward God and where they are leaning away. Be encouraged that you know a whole lot more than they do, both through your years of experience, and the cultivating of your own relationship with God. Share why you believe what you believe, and how you have experienced God blessing your life as a result of your personal relationship with Him.
Don’t think you know everything, but boldly embrace what you do know and share it with confidence so that they too can know that there is solid Truth in this world of so many contradictions. See and understand the world through their eyes and experiences so that you can relate biblical truth to their current circumstances (like Jesus did).
The world is no longer what is was when you were growing up; all the more reason to share how the God who created it can be trusted to sustain it AND to lead your child through it. Show them how God’s promises are kept and how the Bible still tells us the truth—even these many years later.
Instill in your children timeless virtues such as wisdom, justice, integrity, hard work, compassion, and the inherent and equal worth of every human being. Teach them to respect others, and not to demean those who are different. Encourage them to avoid labels, generalizations and stereotypes, and to press deeper than the surface to touch the humanity in others. Let your kids know that being “good” doesn’t automatically mean being obliging, docile, meek, inhibited, compliant, and restrained but could also mean being passionate, original, heroic, and nonconformist.
Let your kids know that there is no higher aim than to live life well, and that the greatest joys of life are naturally available along the everyday paths of life.
NO! While this sounds really good and I almost shook my head in hearty agreement, NO! NO! NO!
There is no higher aim than to love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, and then to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)
And yes, the greatest joys of life are right here right now in the moment when we are doing this well.
Help them understand that happiness is not something you "find" or suddenly appears, but a reality you cultivate through daily choices.
Help your kids appreciate the value of simplicity and to understand that more isn't necessarily better. Let them know that fame and fortune are not reliable paths for well-being and happiness. Teach them there is no substitute for dignity, self-respect and living honorably.
Yes, only I would say it like this: “Teach them there is no substitute for humility, self-sacrifice and living in the wonder that the God who made them, loves them, and fills them with His Spirit, so that they can fulfill the good plans He had in mind when He custom-made them. And that they won’t find anything else more wonderful than living smack dab in fellowship with Him and others as they fulfill that good work.
Tell your kids every day that you love them unconditionally. Find them doing things that are right and good. Be liberal in your affirmation. Let them know they don’t have to be perfect and it’s okay to make mistakes. Admit your own mistakes. Tell them they are beautiful inside and out and be specific about what you see that is good and beautiful about them. Let them see your own passion for life, love for yourself and others, and your example of goodness, wisdom and virtue.
Yes! Yes! And Yes! And show them the wonder in today where only God could do something like that. Let them see how much you love Him, how He gives you a healthy regard for yourself, for them, and for others. Let them know that Your love and devotion to Him are at the root of all that is good, wise and virtuous in you. To God be the glory. Amen.
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