You’ve probably seen a T-shirt that says something like “I’m a blonde Polack. What’s your excuse?” The fact is that we all have our excuses for being imperfect — but when they’re ours, we see them as valid reasons, not lame excuses.
As we mentor or parent teens, it’s important for us to recognize and address our own failings, instead of excusing them. Not only will such honesty benefit our own lives, but it will go a long way toward helping us connect with and impact the lives of teens. How so? I’m glad you asked.
While it might be more comfortable to pretend we’ve got it all together, it’s simply not true. When we try to put up facades, we live in fear of the mask being cracked or otherwise compromised. Instead, God’s Word encourages humble honesty — both before God and others.
Even though a Pharisee-like pretense of perfection may seem like the norm in some church circles, it isn’t what God desires. Romans 3:23 makes it clear that all of us fall short of meeting God’s standards; combined with passages like James 5:16 and Proverbs 28:13, that concept precludes us from pretending to be perfect.
In some church circles, people can even feel pressured to pretend temptations don’t appeal to them, and such pretense can cause unfathomable damage.
In addition to living transparently before others, being real about our own sinfulness can also help us show empathy with the teens whose lives God allows us to touch. This is a big reason Christ came as Emmanuel, to live as a human being.
Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that Christ isn’t beyond being able “to sympathize with our weaknesses”; instead, He was “in every respect … tempted as we are, yet without sin.” While some Bible scholars differ in exactly what that assertion means, the basic point is clear: Jesus understands us and truly feels our pain. What a Savior!
Instead of angrily pointing His finger at us sinners, rightfully accusing us, it’s as if Christ is putting his arm around us in solidarity, gently whispering, “I understand. It’s hard, isn’t it?” What a model for our own discipleship and counseling ministries!
When we’re willing to be real and show empathy, we’re poised to both receive and give grace. That posture is humility. James 4:6 and Hebrews 4:16 are among the passages that directly link humility and grace. If we were perfect, we would not need grace. Since we’re clearly far from where we should be, we need it. But if we don’t admit we need it, we can’t receive it.
The same is true for teens: As they realize and admit their failures and sinfulness, they poise themselves to receive healing and forgiveness. The contrast is also true: when teens excuse and attempt to hide their imperfections, they resist the treatment that they need.
Instead of encouraging others to pretend, we can serve others best by being real, showing empathy, and giving grace.