“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12 NIV
Let’s face it…Hollywood is messing with our heads.
As I watched the previews for newly released movies about families dealing with addiction, I recognized the faces of parents desperate to save their children. Panicked mothers and fathers, played by larger-than-life Hollywood actors, went to the most extreme measures to rescue them, often to the detriment of their own health and the well-being of the rest of the family. Some of these portrayals, while heroic, send the message that the parents are responsible to say the right words and take the right actions if they hope to save their self-destructive children.
If Only It Were That Easy.
Our children become addicted to drugs or alcohol for a variety of reasons. A few may say that childhood abuse or trauma and trying to mask the pain eventually led to them taking drugs. Some did so because of growing up under strict rules they ultimately rebelled against. However, that seems to be the minority. I have spoken with literally hundreds of parents and adult children who battled addiction, and for the most part, the message is the same. “It was not my parent’s fault. They were great parents. They loved me and taught me right from wrong.”
Without fail, I also hear parents take credit for the success of their children with statements like, “We raised them right,” as though parents whose kids didn’t succeed or, worse yet, failed in life, hadn’t read the manual. Parents are so invested in their child’s success or failure that many fall into the categories of helicopter-parents, drone-parents, or the newest one, snowplow-parents. The line between the parent and their adult child seems to have become blurred. It’s as though we are looking at one being, not two separate individuals.
Certainly, it is our role while they are young children and teenagers, to nurture and guide them. As they grow up, there comes a time when they need to put the lessons we have taught them to the test. They are adults now, whether we see them that way or not.
When speaking with parents of successful children, they express feelings of being “proud” of their child and his or her accomplishments. On the other hand, parents of children who failed to achieve society’s definition of success often say they feel “shame or guilt”. I am convinced that we place too much burden of responsibility on our own choices, words, and actions and not enough on those of our offspring. In this age of helicoptering our children, we are driven by feelings of pride and accomplishment or of guilt and self-blame.
Does this sound familiar?
“If only I was stricter...”
“If only I was more lenient...”
“If only I practiced tough love...”
“If only I wasn’t so hard on him...”
“If only I hadn’t kicked her out...”
“If only I didn’t enable him...”
“If only we got Christian counseling...”
“If only I made her go to meetings...”
-If only we could learn to trust God to handle the situation.
-If only we could detach but still stay engaged.
-If only we could find the balance between enabling them and abandoning them.
As we face the reality of how our adult children are behaving, we are not to live burdened with negative attitudes of self-loathing. We should also guard against being prideful or boastful if they are flourishing. Having a healthy attitude about our children and their success or failure necessitates that we walk in humility.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8 NKJV
Vines Dictionary defines humble as “to make low”.
When we consider how we should respond to children who act out or behave recklessly, possibly putting their lives or others at risk, we should first pray for humility in ourselves.
I personally have acted pridefully towards my son, taking on a mother-knows-best attitude that caused him to ignore me and any advice I had to offer. It didn’t matter if I had the “one and only” solution to his problem; he was not receiving it, at least not from me.
“Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” Proverbs 18:12 NIV
The Lord Jesus always spoke the truth, but He lived it out in humility. He did not parade the truth in such a way as to beat people up with it. Instead, He demonstrated humility in his daily interaction with the ones He met. He taught us by example to do the same.
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:6-8 NIV
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29 NIV
Who’s In Control Here?
I am often asked for advice from women who are confused over how to handle dire situations with their loved ones. They are desperate to know what “they” should do to help them.
Trust me. I get it. I am a Type-A person who rescues and tries to control. These are great strengths for me, but can also be my greatest weaknesses. Most of the time, I don’t have the answers and not knowing what to do has often caused me to panic. Even with the warning of counselors and support groups urging me to let my child suffer the consequences of his own actions, I felt compelled to do otherwise. Like me, most parents would do anything to keep their child healthy and safe. The problem occurs when we let our pride get in the way, believing that without our help, they are destined for failure.
I have had to learn humility the hard way. I spent countless hours lecturing my son and trying to convince him to get help. I would vet programs and sober living homes trying to save him. I called intake counselors and faith-based programs, only to have them ask me why it was me calling and not him. I spent thousands of dollars in programs he had no desire to be in. One time he said to me, “Mom. I respect your opinion, but most the time I try things your way and they don’t work out.” Gulp. He was right. This was something he needed to do himself. I could offer him encouragement and pass along phone numbers or websites, but ultimately, it had to be his decision not mine.
That’s what it’s like when we foolishly believe we are in control. Pride lies to us and tells us that we are responsible for the outcome of other people’s choices. Pride makes us feel ashamed and condemned when things don’t turn out the way we expected. Pride worries what others think. It doesn’t allow for mistakes or circumstances beyond our control. It traps us with feelings of guilt. Thankfully, Jesus can set us free from the traps Pride sets.
When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom. Proverbs 11:2 NKJV
The Lord is teaching me to let go of my need to control, and in humility, do what He leads me to do. He never promised me or anyone that obedience would give us a desirable outcome, only that in being obedient we would be blessed. He never guaranteed us that if we said the right thing to our addicted or rebellious children, they would turn their heels and come running back to the safety of their mother’s arms! He only asks us to listen and obey.
Another thing Pride does is cause us to be people-pleasers. Follow the crowd. Pride will tell us to go with the flow. Do it the same way as everyone else. Pride keeps us from taking risks. What if we fail? Fear of shame and humiliation will render us unable to live in faith. It will insist that we not swim upstream or against the tide. It will demand us to believe that God isn’t speaking to us about our lives and families. Instead, He speaks to everyone else and gives them wisdom. If we do what they say instead of believing his word and trusting that still-small voice in our spirit, then we can’t be held responsible for the outcome. And while this might be true in some cases, it won’t give us peace or freedom. It will keep us prisoners to fear and self-doubt.
So how do we break free from the snare of pride and the fear of shame? How do we learn to walk humbly with our God?
I feel led to encourage you to take a deep breath and simply Believe.
Believe that God made you the mom or wife or parent of the hurting person in your life for a reason.
Believe He will lead you and guide you to know when to step in and when to step away.
Believe He will provide you with wise counselors who can encourage and help you.
Believe that no matter what they tell you, though, He still retains full authority to require you to make a complete change of direction.
Believe that even if it results in the seemingly worst possible outcome, obedience to Him is still the best option.
Believe His word as He ignites the fire of truth in your soul. Cease doubting that He will give you wisdom.
Believe it’s okay to risk humiliation for the sake of obedience.
Believe His ways are not our ways.
Believe it’s perfectly normal to not have all the answers all the time.
As God transforms us from haughty to humble, we will learn to trust His judgment over our own. As we choose to believe what God says over the opinion of others, we will be free to finally say…
“all things are possible to him who believes.” Mark 9:23 NKJV