Have you see this week’s episode of NBC’s ‘This is Us?’ If not, consider this your partial *spoiler alert!*
I think everyone in America loves this show because it depicts what real life is like dealing with the messiness of relationships and muck of this broken world. We identify with the characters, and see in them some of the same heart issues we struggle to deal honestly with. For some I imagine the flashbacks to the shaping events on the characters’ lives have struck a chord. But hopefully they have also challenged us to see the shaping influence we are on our own kids.
This does not mean we must be the perfect parent to keep from negatively affecting our kids. No, we can positively shape them as much (if not more) by how we deal with our sin and struggles, than in doing all the right things. So, don’t buy into the lie or the pressure that we must be perfect; God can and does use even our failures to shape them for his good.
But with that said, our words and actions do have a huge impact on our kids. From this Season 2, Episode 2 we see this through Kate’s relationship with her mom, Rebecca.
Even as an adult, Kate believes she fails to measure up to her mom’s standards. She sees her mom as everything she is not, so anytime Rebecca is around her insecurities are heightened. From her weight, to the way her house looks, how her boyfriend is perceived, and her singing and performing on stage, Kate feels she is not enough for her mom. And, therefore, not enough.
Through the flashback scenes and present day dialogue we see why. Rebecca sings beautifully, She also has a much smaller physical frame than her daughter. But the reason these are so problematic stem from her damaging words. Rebecca’s compliments of Kate come along with some form of correction or a how-to suggestion for getting better. She means it as encouragement, but these backhanded compliments fuel Kate’s feelings of inadequacy and become the source of shame she can’t get out from under.
Because of the shame, even when her boyfriend compliments or encourages her, it is never louder than the voice in her head that deems her worthless. Her whole identity hinging on her mom’s critique.
As I watched the show, it broke my heart for Kate. But it also broke my heart to know at times I have come across just like Rebecca (the mom, not my daughter Rebecca!) and have unintentionally led my daughter Rebecca (and probably others too) to feel less-than.
The mother/daughter relationship is especially tricky, and the father/son one can be too. We project onto our kids who we want them to be and push them to be better. But that measuring stick of our performance and successes can be a glaring reminder to them of where they fail to meet up to our expectations, accomplishments or appearances. I think this occurs often when our kids do the same sports or activities we did. However, our different personality types and natural abilities also affect the way our kids see themselves compared to us.
So, Moms & Dads, do you see how this is us?
We heap shame on our kids even with well-meaning intentions. But the good thing in it being revealed is we can do something about it. That’s why seeing your sin is actually a good thing! Because only when you are aware of your sin can you confess and repent of it.
Therefore, instead of burying your failure underneath shame, or denying messing up, let’s deal honestly with our kids about the hurtful things we’ve said and will say, or the looks we’ve given. Let’s even ask them to point those things out to us; the things we aren’t even aware of. Can we do that?
By God’s grace, may we approach them with humility, be willing to listen to their perspective and make needed changes. May we start by asking for their forgiveness, and ask God (and them) to help us see when we still create insecurities in them. This is something I’m learning from my daughter. It hurts to see where my words or performance has led to insecurities in her. But I am thankful to be learning, and know it is growing ‘us’ closer.
Dealing honestly, even when it’s hard, is what will change the course of the shaping influence our sin and failures will have on our children. So let’s take a cue from ‘This is Us’ for the growth and good of our relationships by examining our hearts and living redemptively with one another.