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WOUNDED YOUNG CHILDREN
It should come as no surprise that each and every one of us have been wounded at least once, and more than likely many times in our lives. Many of our defining wounds were bestowed on us when we were young, and did not have the emotional maturity to process what was being done or said.
My dad was a decent man, and he had a bit of a temper. Some of my earliest memories of being a boy are having done something that I shouldn’t have done, or not doing something I was told to do, and dad getting mad. Typically my dad responded with an outburst of anger, and a cuff up side of the head. I don’t know about you, but I always thought my dad’s hand was made of something much harder than flesh. I may have deserved being reprimanded on many occasions, however, the fact that my dad never circled back around with me and said he was sorry left me with a question that was seldom, if ever, answered. Am I ok? Was his anger my fault? Not receiving the answer to those questions paved the way for shame to take up permanent residence.
I think it is important to make a distinction between shame and guilt. When I was young and I did, or did not do something that my dad expected me to do, my dad’s anger and the void of asking for forgiveness left me wondering. Guilt is a gift that God has given us to help us know when we have done something wrong. When I sin and am in the wrong, guilt says confess your sin, and God will forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness…I John 1:9. What a gift, right? Shame on the other hand says, there is something wrong “with me”.
That shame stayed with me well into my adult years. Like my dad before me, I was a very angry man, and I let that anger hurt my children. While I regret letting my anger instill fear in my kids, I also had the sense that I needed to go back to them and ask for forgiveness…thank you Jesus!
Several years ago my adult son Matthew and I were having one of our many conversations about wounds, and I had a memory of one time when I was certain that I had left him with yet another wound. When I brought it up…to ask his forgiveness btw…I was taken aback by his answer. He said that he remembered the incident, but he really didn’t think that it was a wound. Of course I was relieved, but I was also curious. Why do say that it didn’t land as a wound, I asked him?
He said that even though I often got mad at him, and that my anger made him feel small and scared, that every time I would come back to him and ask for his forgiveness, it helped him realize that the anger was not his fault.
He said that if I had not done that, he probably would have emotionally moved away from me, and physically. Did you catch it? That right there is the way dad’s with young children can keep shame from setting up residence in the hearts and lives of our kids.
You will wound your children, the question is how bad, and what do you do after the fact.
Don’t avoid talking to your young children about how your actions where out of line. Go quickly to them and ask them to forgive you. Love conquers a multitude of sin…I Peter 4:8.