The Best Thing My Parents Ever Did For Me
I recently had the chance to talk with a young man in his early twenties about his faith and his upbringing. I’m always interested in hearing people’s stories about how they navigated doubts and challenges to their faith. This is partly because I do not come from a Christian home and have no experience with doubting the faith I was raised with, nor with trying to make it my own.
As a mom of two boys, I was particularly interested in what this young man had to say about his struggles in making is faith his own, as well as the most important things that his parents did to help him navigate the process.
I was surprised at his response.
It was interesting to me that this young man was very aware of the fact that his faith was borrowed from his parents. During his teens, he struggled with doubts and with trying to decide if all that he’d been taught over the course of his life was something that he believed for himself.
This struggle was agonizing. Appreciate how much he loved his parents, and how difficult it was to struggle with deciding if he believed what they’d taught him. But this was not the struggle that surprised me.
His next biggest struggle was deciding if the Bible was actually, 100%, irrevocably true.
I have always thought that challenges from science, religious relativism, or the existence of evil were bigger stumbling blocks for the average person. But in this young man’s experience, most Christian teens struggle more with the truth of certain aspects of the Bible than with any other struggle.
I was a bit surprised at that.
The biggest struggle that this young man had encountered in his faith was his struggle with lustful thoughts. This surprised me. He described these thoughts as having come “out of nowhere” and he was completely taken off guard by them. He could not understand what was happening to his brain. The weight of the onslaught of the thoughts and the shame associated with them were oppressive. He had no idea what to do and it severely affected his faith.
Women, I am told, cannot appreciate just how difficult this struggle is for men. I believe it.
I was saddened to discover that friends of this young man – good Christian boys raised in great Christian homes – ended up becoming addicted to pornography while in their mid-teens because they did not know how to deal with the pressure of these invasive thoughts. Imagine the life-long affect this will have on them.
What was the best thing that his parents did?
The best thing that this young man’s parents did was to prioritize a close, open, and honest relationship with their kids. They didn’t pretend to be perfect. They were honest about their failures and apologized for them in front of their kids. They held on to their relationship with their kids rather than let them be mostly influenced by their peers. This made them approachable, humble, and safe.
This young man knew that he could approach his parents with something even as shameful to him as his unwanted thought life. He did not suffer the same fate as his friends because he’d had that kind of a relationship with his parents. They didn’t just sympathize, they helped him to find answers to his doubts and helped him to understand the lustful thoughts and ways to cope with them.
But they were only given this chance because they had relationship with their kids where doubt, struggle, shame, and failure were allowed.
My biggest take aways
All of this young man’s struggles were 100% natural for his age and gender – he just didn’t know it! Here are my take aways as a parent:
- I know we all want to shield our kids from “that talk about the birds and the bees” for as long as possible. We want to protect their innocence, but putting this off for too long is also doing them a big disservice. If you have a child in Grade 5, you don’t have the luxury of any more waiting time. Start with some basics now and add more knowledge over time.
- Allow yourself to be open and vulnerable in front of your kids. We are supposed to live redeemed lives, not perfect ones. Let them see you take responsibility for your behaviour, apologise, and reconcile.
- Don’t be afraid of doubt – yours or that of your children. Make sure your kids know that they are allowed to doubt – in fact, it would be strange and unhealthy if they didn’t. Doubts have a tendency to creep in significance when they are kept to ourselves. Being open about your struggles with faith and how you dealt with them will help your child to realize that this is normal. If you don’t know what your children’s doubts are, start by encouraging your kids to ask questions about their faith now.
Losing your faith is easy. Falling for temptation or peer pressure are as well. Wrestling your way through your doubts is much harder but totally worth the effort. Our kids need to know this, and they need to know that they are not alone.
What was the best thing your parents ever did for you (or what do you wish they’d done)?