Shame, disgrace, humiliation. It’s a powerful emotion, isn’t it? We’ve all felt it, and we’ve probably also dealt it. If any of us were asked whether it was a positive or negative emotion, we’d be quick to say that it’s definitely negative. What part does shame play in your parenting? Let’s look at some possibilities.
As parents, we often feel shame in the form of false guilt regarding our parenting. Just like we can unjustly feel pride in their personal accomplishments to which we’ve contributed little to nothing, we can unjustly feel shame. In such cases, we need to remind ourselves of what is true and refuse to color our own view of ourselves by our children’s choices. God created them to be independent, autonomous people, and when they choose to express their autonomy in ways of which we disapprove, we are not responsible for their choices.
Sometimes, shame is not the byproduct of false guilt but by reasonable guilt over wrongs we have done. We can absolutely do our very best, and we still won’t be perfect parents. Even if we were, though, that would not ensure perfect children. I love this line in the new song “A Mother’s Prayer” by Keith and Kristyn Getty: “May my mistakes not hinder you/ But His grace remain and guide you through.” Although written by new parents, these words show that they understand that try as they might, they will make mistakes. So will you, so will I, and so will all our kids. When we do sin (let’s just call it what it is!), we need to confess and forsake it. At that point, Christ says that He will remember it no more, and we need to put aside the past and move forward. It’s Satan, not our Heavenly Father, that wants us to remain trapped in guilt and shame. As we seek Christ, we can enjoy victory over present sins and freedom from our past.
Not only can shame be unhealthy for us as parents, but it can negatively impact our kids, as well. For instance, if we’ve decided that a certain aura or appearance will come across as disgraceful, we can overreact to innocent or childish choices as if they’re on par with immorality. The angry words and icebox vibes we hurl at our kids can be more damaging than any punishment we could dole out. They can also be confusing. When our pride gets in the way of our relationships, they’re bound to suffer. Those people whose opinions seem so important aren’t nearly as important to us as our children are, or should be.
Ugly words like “you should feel ashamed of yourself” should be reserved for serious acts of direct rebellion, not mismatched outfits. As parents, we need to guard against shaming ourselves or our children. After all, Christ bore our shame for us, so we don’t have to feel that pain.