Monday, November 7, 2011

Helping Those Who Struggle When You Struggle, Too

A friend of mine once asked me the following question:

Is there any advice you can provide on how to talk to my kids about their doubts when I'm riddled with my own?

My response to him was:

Repentance means nothing more than "change" at its core. What you are going through is a true repentance process - NOT in the classic "bad man becomes good man" construct that most members picture, but in the wonderful "good man examines self to become better" process.

Frankly, I'd share your experience with your kids - in an age and individual child appropriate way, of course, but openly and honestly. I'd start out by talking about how you used to take everything at face value and just believe - because that's what you thought was expected of you and because it's easier to do that. I'd mention that you went through an intense and difficult time of doubt - where you weren't sure what you personally believed. I'd mention that you are gaining a PERSONAL understanding and testimony of many things that you took for granted before - and that you still are trying to figure a lot of stuff out. I wouldn't go into specifics unless someone asks, but I'd end by talking about what repentance really means - that it is more about changing who you are in a positive, intentional way than about beating yourself up over past mistakes - that Jesus paid for our past mistakes and freed us to pursue progression and positive change and joy.

Actually, I'd end by telling them that you now understand deeply why people have doubts and concerns and struggle with various things - and that you are willing to talk with each and every one of them at any time about any doubts or concerns or struggles they are having. I'd tell them that it's perfectly fine to struggle - that having real faith actually is founded on being willing to work through struggles and not just "give up" when we don't understand something. It's not passive acceptance, but proactive and focused effort to figure it out and learn - to "gain knowledge" by both study AND prayer/contemplation.

That's my gut reaction. It is a scary proposition in many ways, but I think your children can gain tremendous strength and insight if they know they aren't the only ones who struggle - and that, conversely, they can feel inadequate and even "bad" if they think they are alone in their struggles.


Clean Cut said...

Such an important topic. Lately I too have been having to ponder how to respond to my own young children when they ask me about some belief on which I've personally had my beliefs evolve (and on which in primary they're still getting the "old" version). They're very young now, so it hasn't been too difficult, but I think this post will be something I'll refer back to as they get older.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Ray that will be useful in helping me articulate my own process of an evolving testimony to our children and young people.So good to have the process of growth validated,we need more of this when communicating testimony with our young people in particular.In doing so we help them to find a way of opting in,and make it more difficult for them to opt themselves out.

Richard Alger said...