In past articles, we’ve discussed the problem of shame as well as the power of words. When it comes to the deepest motivations of our hearts, all of us as humans are prone to deception. We need to counter lies with God’s truth. But first, we need to uncover the deceptions to which we’re falling prey — and help our kids to uncover theirs.
Once we realize that shame is at the root of the communication whip lash we experience with our teen, we can begin by demonstrating empathy and gently prodding to figure out the root of the issue (as we discussed in Part 1). After that, we can prompt re-evaluation of specific situations or conversations and help our teen move toward self-forgetfulness and loving others.
Step 3: Gently Prompt Re-Evaluation
Once you’ve begun the work of letting gospel truth permeate your teen’s incorrect view of God and of himself, you can start to look at some specific interpersonal communications. You might say something like this: “Do you think that your view of yourself was clouding your assessment of what your teacher said, or do you have good reasons to think your teacher actually intended to criticize you?”
After some re-evaluations have been successful, you might try to deal with some communication problems between yourself and your teen. First, you’ll need to pray for a very humble spirit and be willing to confess wrong and ask forgiveness. You could ask something like this: “Have I given you reasons to think that I don’t really love you or that I’m not being honest with you?” Perhaps, unwittingly, you have. Don’t argue, just apologize; remember, restoration is the goal. Your own pride needs to die in order for that to happen.
Next, you can be more assertive: “I promise to be honest with you, and I need for you to trust me. I know I don’t do it perfectly and don’t always show it, but I truly do love you. I need for you to believe that, and realize that there’s nothing you can do to change that.” The healing process has begun.
Step 4: Point Away from Self, Toward Others
Turning from shame, ironically, takes humility. While shame and depression convincingly beg your teen to turn inward, the answer is the opposite. While shame seems like hyper-humility, it’s actually an outgrowth of pride. As Jason Meyer writes, “Humility is fundamentally a form of self-forgetfulness as opposed to pride’s self-fixation.”
A proper understanding of pride can help us see how just about everything teens do can be motivated by it. When they assume others are constantly thinking about and judging them or that even words of praise or love are insincere, they’re ultimately proving that they’re obsessed with themselves. As a result, they will instinctively turn away from people, consumed with their own feelings of worthlessness.
When we trust what God says above our own flawed — if completely natural and easily believable — interpretations, we’re free to move toward others out of love.