Do you struggle with guilt when one of your children fails?
I know that I do! Whether it’s a failing grade, an ill-timed practical joke that causes hurt, or words that should never have been spoken, the failure of a child causes me untold grief and self-condemnation.
Is that how it has to be? As mothers are we somehow responsible to bear the burden of guilt that comes with our children’s poor choices and faulty living? Does our kinship with our children make us equally culpable for their decisions?
I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about those questions, and honestly, I think the answer is yes… and well… no.
Yes, if we’ve failed to train our children in biblical principles… we are partly responsible for their failures. Yes, if we’ve allowed poor attitudes and actions to continue without addressing the root sin issues… we are partly responsible for their responses. Yes, if we’ve excused their bad behavior, made excuses for their poor judgment, and rationalized their sin appetites… we’re partly responsible for their choices.
When the answer is yes, our children’s failures must serve as a wake-up call to us. In some sense, God uses their failures to remind us of our responsibility to “Train them up in the way they should go.” (Proverbs 22:6) Their failures must prompt us to live out the teaching found in Deuteronomy 6:5-9, where Moses instructed the parents of Israel to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
Their failures must be the impetus for us to love God, to have His commands in our hearts, to impress them to our kids, to talk about them continually, to make them obvious everywhere our kids look. Our kid’s failures are an opportunity for us to make them aware that God is bigger than their biggest failure!
Failure is only failure if we fail to teach into the moment.
When we over-react, under-respond, and turn our kid’s failures into a self-focused pity party, then failure truly is failure and we’ve lost the opportunity to turn it into something we can use to ultimately bring glory to God.
But… and this is a big, huge, slow down and ponder it… But!
When we have consistently taught our children biblical principles,
When we’ve addressed poor attitudes and actions and taken the time to deal with the root sin issues,
When we’ve refused to rationalize our children’s sin appetites and have instead exposed those appetites for what they truly are,
Then, we are making a poor choice when we allow our children’s failures to produce guilt in our hearts. We are making a poor choice when we, in essence, say that our children’s failures are our failures. We are wrongly accepting blame from the accuser who wants us to wallow in disappointment and misplaced remorse.
When our children “know the good they ought to do” and choose not to follow through on that good, the scriptures are clear… That is sin. (James 4:17) Their sin, their choice, their decision, and their wrongdoing! All we accomplish by embracing misplaced guilt is taking the focus and responsibility away from the wrongdoer (our child) and placing the focus on us.
Don’t Do It!
Can I be honest here? It’s much easier for me to remind you not to feel guilty, than it is to cast off that guilt myself. It’s easier to comfort you with words of encouragement, than to heed those words in my own heart. I would guess that’s probably the same for you. With that in mind, may I call us all to a challenge today?
Today, will you remind another mother that her children’s choices are not her choices! Will you reassure a troubled heart with the reminder that although yes, she must teach into her children’s failures, she cannot own those failures! Will you minister grace to a mom who is shackled by misplaced guilt?
I truly believe that as we minister such grace to other moms, God will begin to chisel through our own concrete-hard hearts and heads to remind us that we, too, are not the burden-bearers for our children’s failures. How much easier it is to teach into the failure of moment with our children when we aren’t trying to carry the consequences of that moment on our own shoulders. How much more effective our words when the focus isn't on how our kids have disappointed us, but rather, how they've disappointed God.
I’ve got enough of my own sin to keep me plenty busy… I don’t need to carry the guilt of anyone else’s sin and Neither Do You!
Today, will you teach biblical truths to your kids, correct faulty attitudes and actions in their lives and yours, and encourage other moms to drop their burden of guilt over their kid’s choices?
Then, regardless of what our children do or don’t do, we can walk confidently… unshackled by undeserved and unnecessary guilt!