This year is our second year in our homeschooling adventure. We’re studying the Old Testament as well as ancient world history, and are learning so much! We began the year in Genesis and Exodus, learned about the Egyptians and their ancient culture, and started memorizing the ten commandments one by one.
In December, as I began to share my affair story publicly online, it seemed to be no coincidence we began to memorize the 6th commandment, “You shall not commit adultery”–one with which I never thought I’d have personal experience.
I knew at some point an explanation would be needed, because at ages 7 and 8 they were certainly unfamiliar with the word adultery.
I pondered and prayed for just the right words, primarily because the explanation would be so much more than an objective lesson for my husband and me to give. It would be the open door to discuss our past mistake with them, an opportunity to explain our failure, and the chance to reflect the redemption God has provided in our lives.
We fear looking bad, being a poor influence, or giving them a free pass to fail. Instead, we prefer to relay the best of who we are, because it makes us feel better about ourselves. And instead of transparency, we subconsciously craft an impression that is disingenuous at best, and a total lie at its worst.
Oh sure, we share about the white lie we told in 5th grade, or the time we got detention for ditching high school. It’s easy to share about the ‘D’ we got in Biology or the speeding ticket we were given on the highway.
But what about the deeper things.
The secret things.
Those things we prefer to forget.
The mistakes we bury in the corners of our hearts, hoping the light never shines there again … the abortion, the drunk driving, the sex with our boyfriend or the battle with bulimia. Do we really believe there is any benefit to speaking of those things to our kids?
So today, if you’re wondering if that dark time in your past is ever something your kids need to know, may I offer 5 benefits to sharing our past with our kids? So that our relationships with them may be strengthened, and so God can use it to help us heal and grow. Because when we belong to Christ and surrender our past to Him—our mistakes, failures, and all the pain we’ve endured, He takes it all and uses it for good. And there is nothing He leaves unredeemed.
5 Benefits to Sharing our Past with our Kids
1. The Truth is Always Better
An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. Proverbs 24:26 (NIV)
There is a time and a place for honesty, and only we can know when that is. But as we seek the Lord and listen to His providential timing, there may be a perfect time to be honest about our past. Perhaps they’re facing a situation we have faced, and our honesty could help save them from the devastating consequences of a poor choice. And in the right moment, an honest answer from our own life experience could be the most loving thing we can do for them.
2. Failure is Never Final
Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. Psalm 103:2-4 (NIV)
Sometimes it’s easy for kids to think they’re the only ones who struggle, and to feel alone in their failure. But sharing our past mistakes with them, helps them know they aren’t alone, and gives them hope that failure is never final. As we share our struggles, and how God worked them for good, they will become confident He can do that for them too.
3. Adversity Make us Stronger
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4 (NIV)
It is so important to embrace our mistakes and learn from our failure. And even painful circumstances that are beyond our control can be used by God to cultivate our character. This may be hard for our kids to understand. But as we welcome our kids into our own adversity, they will begin to see how we all have trials and are each made stronger through them. They can know that God works in our hearts through our adversity, and they can choose to allow their adversity to make them stronger too.
4. God Loves us No Matter What
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins… And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:10, 16 (NIV)
So often we’re tempted to think God’s love is conditional, and our kids do too. Maybe our view is based on our own relationship with our parents or is driven by our individual personalities. But the truth of God’s Word stands firm declaring we are loved by God no matter what! And this is SO important for our children to know. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and nothing we can do to make God love us less. And while our mistakes and failures may produce lasting consequences here on this earth, their hearts need to be reassured that God’s love for us never ever wavers, and we are loved by Him no matter what!
5. Authenticity Grows Trust
The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33 (NIV)
Anytime we are sincere and transparent with another person, trust is built. And the same is true for our relationships with our kids. Authenticity grows trust. It opens the door to more depth of relationship and sets a precedent for future interaction.
Sometimes, as kids, it’s tempting to think parents are perfect, and have no problems at all. So as kids grow up, face temptation and struggle with failure, they may feel they can’t share that part of their lives with us, because after all, they have the impression that when it comes to “big” failure, we’re perfect.
And sometimes our pride makes us tempted to give that impression.
But before honor comes humility, and as we fear God, listen for His timing, and open the door to authenticity, our kids will begin to see us as real people who face challenges too. They’ll understand they’re not alone in their failure. And as we model humility and a dependence on God, they will honor and trust our input into their lives, knowing there’s always an open door—a standing invitation, to connect with us as real people who love them so much.
Is there something in your past you dread sharing with your kids?
What happened when you did?