On Monday of this week, my oldest son, Eric, and I gave a talk to a large group of young adults here in Wichita.
The group: Theology on Tap.
Our topic: The Brain and Porn Addiction.
During the presentation, I shared my version of how I raised Eric and then he shared “the rest of the story.”
I didn’t know my kid had a porn habit.
When I found out, I handled it well. I cried for two weeks. I didn’t let my child see my tears, but I was a hot mess.
After my little spiritual breakdown, I went on a mission to find out more. Why was my moral child, raised by two loving, Christian parents, attracted to something so immoral?
Over the course of YEARS of research, I found answers, great answers. I taught them to my son. He found freedom. And we now share our story with others, to show them the road to freedom.
When we give our talk, Eric always always always sincerely tells me thank you for not shaming him when I found out about his struggle and as he worked through it.
On Monday night he thanked me again.
After our talk, I walked around the room and this is what struck me: many of the young adults easily shared their long-term porn use with me, a stranger.
I asked them if they’d be willing to talk to their parents.
No way. Nope. Never.
They all told me that their parents would not accept this about them.
My response: You are not a parent. You don’t know how we love.
The young men and women just shook their heads. They knew they wouldn’t be able to tell their parents their deepest truth.
I couldn’t fall asleep on Monday night. I tossed and turned for hours, thinking about those adult children. There are many reasons why pornography is thriving in our culture.
For one, the accessibility of it.
Everyone nowadays has a mini computer in the palm of their hand.
But also, you and I, as God-fearing adults, have been taught, rightly, that our married sexual love is sacred.
As a result,
Yet that reluctance to discuss sexual matters actually allows pornography to thrive.
So there’s that.
But the biggest piece of this puzzle: SHAME.
The young adults in that room on Monday night had never been able to talk freely with their parents.
And that got me all fired up. My blog readers are mothers. Mothers of young children. Mothers of medium children. Mothers of big children.
I’d like to give you a small gift this fine day. It’s a gift that was given to me when I was a young, impressionable girl and believe it or not, it is a gift with staying power; it helps me parent to this day.
The year was 1977; I was ten years old and I wanted to get my favorite sister a Christmas present.
The issue: I didn’t have much money. I went to our small town Five and Dime Store, hoping to find something for her.
I looked over all of the pet rocks and mood rings. Then I saw it: a pretty, dainty ring, perfect for my pretty, dainty sister. It cost more than I had.
I looked around. No one was looking. I put it in my pocket and raced out of there.
When I was home, I wrapped up the ring for my sister. I was so happy to be able to get her something.
THEN something odd began to happen to my soul. I felt this heavy sensation in my stomach region.
I tried to pretend it wasn’t there, but the feeling kept me awake at night.
I was guilty of stealing.
I wondered what my mom and sister would think of me if they knew.
A new, never-felt-before emotion emerged:
I ripped open the wrapping paper and flung the ring across the room.
I finally confessed to my mother.
And my mother, dear woman, looked at me with love and understanding and simply said, “We need to go bring it back to the dime store.”
She did not freak. She did not tell me how bad I was.
My mom saw my ugly but she didn’t label ME ugly.
My mother drove me back to the scene of my crime and stood by my side, with her understanding and love, as I apologized to the store owner and gave back the ring.
The difference between guilt and shame:
I had guilt when I knew that I had broken a rule. I felt bad about something I had done.
I felt shame when I thought of my family seeing this about me. I felt like I was bad.
Even at the age of ten, I hated how my shame felt. Praise GOD I have a mother that had/has the heart of Jesus. Her unconditional acceptance made all of the difference to my young heart.
Now, to be clear, if Mom would have looked at me with hatred and said, “I am so sick of the trouble you cause me,” or “Yep, this is typical Lori behavior…” or “I cannot believe I have a thief in my house,” I would have felt totally cut off from what I needed most at that moment: my mother’s love.
As it was, my mother heard me and my sin, she took it into her heart and she just looked at me with mercy and love.
She knew she didn’t have to make me feel bad. I had that down. She helped me see that I had made a bad choice but I wasn’t bad. She stayed connected with me.
And finally, she showed me that I could make amends, that my wrong could be righted.
From her, I knew I was a good kid that had done something wrong. She taught me how to make a better choice.
I know, beyond a shadow, that my mother is the reason why I didn’t/don’t shame my son when he struggled with something bigger than himself.
He rates it as his number one gift, the Difference Maker.
I tell you this, Mama, because no matter what I said to those young adults on Monday night, they KNEW that their parents just wanted perfection. And those compliant kids didn’t want to break the news that they were less than perfect to their parents.
Their pain was palatable.
There is a better way to parent. It starts with shifting gears:
The goal is not to raise perfect children.
Why not? Because you and I are human. NO.ONE.IS.PERFECT. To think you can have perfect children is believing more in Pinterest than reality.
The goal is to help our children accept their imperfections and know they are still worthy of love and belonging.
God’s grace is big enough for all of us. Live in that grace.
When your child does something really stupid or genuinely hurtful, correct them but do it in such a way that they feel totally connected with you. Then show them how to right their wrongs, teach them how to apologize.
And when you do something stupid or hurtful, apologize. You and I, as mothers, will fail! Often! That’s okay! Some of my best parenting moments have been through my most epic failures! Grace is so cool.
And most importantly, tell your precious babies over and over, “There is nothing that you will ever do that will make me love you less. That’s a mother’s love. Yes, I may get upset at times, but we will work through it; I will always love you no matter what, you are such a gift to me.”
There is incredible power in giving your child the gift of acceptance.
As they realize that they are loved, truly loved, with all of their imperfections, they will be able to stand apart from their sin and mistakes, enabling them to be completely transparent as they move and live and love in this world.
It is a gift worth giving.
Find out more about our mission in this post: Let’s Stop the Crazy Train.
Find out MUCH MORE about our mission at The Parenting Dare.