Teens of religious parents today are questioning the accusatory lifestyle they see in most adults in churches today. Maybe some don't see this accusatory lifestyle in themselves, but others see it. I wonder how many of us would be willing to be open for constructive criticism and ask around "Hey would you mind being honest with me? Do I tend to speak in an accusatory way? Like...do you view my speech as condeming and suspicious of others with accusation?" And be seriously ready for an honest answer. When we treat people as if we are on the hunt to find sin in their lives and point it out to them, then we are in for quite a trip. I use the word trip, because a trip usually means a stumble and most likely a fall, while a journey makes me think of adventure and relaxation.
Pollyanna said it best when she said "if you look for the bad in people you are sure to find it"
Do our teens feel like we're constantly looking for the bad in them? What kind of relationship does that create in our families? Most likely it's developing a lack of trust.
Let me put it this way... how would we feel if our husband's were constantly on the look out for fault in us, quickly pointing out every error we made so he can correct us? I can understand telling a lady there's mustard on her cheek, but pointing out every gray hair becomes rather annoying. (and don't even try to point out every single pound she is overweight on a daily basis...you're sure to lose her heart.) So where does this leave us with our kids? Have we ever really asked someone we trust to be honest with us about our parenting style? Or are we full of pride, thinking we've got it all together?
This last year I had to face this question myself. Before I even thought of who to ask for advice, I already knew what some friends were going to say. Keywords like, legalistic, strict, mean, controlling, fearful, dictating, and ludicrous all came to mind. Seriously...I knew it..and for many years I listened to someone tell me THAT was the 'right' way to raise kids. As my girls became teenagers I quickly learned that this was most definitely not true. Especially when I saw that person's teen girls really 'getting out there' then downright breaking their parents hearts (and ego) when they eventually fell, and they fell hard.
As I was experiencing this revelation, I experienced a fall myself. I became so legalistic that I lost some very dear friends over my 'standards'. Yes siree, my 'standards' pushed us all apart. Instead of being honey to bring sweetness to others, I became vinegar. No matter how kind I tried to present my 'standard of life' it left a seriously bitter taste in everyone's mouth. I still have family and friends who won't speak to me at all. Maybe you think having strict standards isn't considered a 'fall', but it certainly is..a fall from grace and a head on collision with the Law. I fell and *SPLAT* It was then that I found grace. It was time for me to face my legalistic past and apologize to MANY that I had hurt. Some listened, but still chose to depart from me. And a very select few showed me what grace looked like in the flesh. As I sit here in tears, I recall these special ladies. These ladies not only forgave me, but extended blessings to me that I had not expected and certainly didn't deserve. I felt like the Prodigal Son returning to the arms of his father. Only I was a prodigal sister, fleeing legalism and returning to the arms of Christian Sisters who fully embraced me in my return. Being embraced and showered in grace by them was like being embraced by Christ himself..for I know He lives within them.
Then more blessings continued to come my way. They invited me to a conference for free. Little did they know that God was about to use them in a fabulous way..every word spoken at that conference touched me DEEPLY! And when one of these wonderful sisters, Amy Bayliss, spoke about her testimony of grace for her ex-husband, I sobbed uncontrollably. I was being freed through the power Father gave her that day. Then I looked at my children. What kind of grace do I shower them with? Have I ever done so? Through all the years of strict
'standards' legalism, my heart had grown bitter towards my own kids and my rules and regulations were holding our family in bondage. How can one grow when their roots are bound in a pot too small for the plant? We all needed a transplant and room to spread our roots. Then growth began to take place.
It has been a long road to 'recovery', but Christ made it possible. He brought people of grace into our lives and we began to heal from the inside out. You see, legalism works from the outside in. Which is exactly what I was doing to my kids. Behavior modification was never going to bring about a natural desire for living with love and mutual respect for others. It just teaches them how to be just as controlling. And a preacher once said 'Anything a parent does, the kids will do to the extreme.' Well that was enough for me. There was no way I wanted them to become more legalistic than I was. It was turning me into a monster. There's a dragon with seven heads in the book of Revelation and I don't want to portray that.
Legalism points the finger, grace leads the way to freedom. Hold off on the accusations, see what grace can do for your relationships instead. I am thankful to have been given this opportunity to lead my children back to grace before they move on in life without me. It's been a sweet journey and continues to be. Get subscribed to be notified of more upcoming articles in this series.
'Breaking Through the Chains'
'Breaking Through the Chains'
Sisterlisa is a homeschooling mom of four children and married to an evangelist who travels to bring the gospel to those in need of our Savior. She is the owner of Growing in Grace Magazine and Pix-O-Sphere
photos brought to you by various photographers at pixosphere.com