A few nights ago, I sat outside with some long-time friends, talking about kids and life. The question was posed, “How does a parent teach a child to be honest without disclosing too much (especially negative stuff) to everyone?”
One friend shared this insight, “You have to discern whether the person asking ‘how you are’ really wants to know. Not everyone that asks wants a full or honest answer.”
Across from her, another friend offered, “Keep it positive. Keep it private.”
I love these insights and how my fellow sisters are teaching their children to use discretion and optimism in a world that encourages full exposure (which often translates into whiny venting). Tending toward pessimistic thinking and frank candor, I myself often share more than I should, willing to let nearly anyone read my “open book”. I’m still learning the balance between being real and being positive. It’s about perspective, is it not?
Authenticity is a millennial hot-button word right now. Be real. Be who you are and let people see that. This generation–more than the ones before–longs to be understood and accepted for “who they are.” And yet, ironically, in a world of social media (Fakebook and the like), we control and manipulate the persona people see. Few online viewers know the real me, unless they already have a personal relationship with me.
I grew up in a home with two very private and judicious parents: getting them to share personal feelings, fears, doubts was often rare. Consequently, I didn’t really “know” my parents as people (they made excellent counselors though) until later in my adult life. I recognize that parents need to shield their children from the world’s evil, financial struggles, or their parents’ doubts or fears, but I also want my children to recognize my flaws. Far from perfect, I need a Savior who hears my cries for help and forgives me when I mess up. I want my children to grasp the level of dependence and grace I have with the Lord; I am far from “having it all together” and I don’t want them feeling constant guilt because they don’t either. And hopefully, in this discerned sharing with my kids, they grasp the broken humanity of us all. They see that we all–Mom and Dad included–possess weaknesses and struggles and need a daily Savior.
Humility draws us into community.
Although I encourage my kids to be vulnerable with us and humble with their friends, I want them to understand that not everyone remains safe. Some people shouldn’t know about your experiences, where you live, or what your weekly schedule looks like. I’m trying to find that healthy tension between honesty and cautiousness, but the world my children grow up in contrasts greatly to the one I experienced 30+ years ago. We don’t live in Mayberry anymore and sometimes “trustworthy” people prove to be vastly different people than you thought they were. No, I don’t want my children hiding behind closed doors their whole lives, but I also want to teach them vigilance. When they were younger, I over-drilled “Don’t talk to strangers” that they wouldn’t interact with the checker at the grocery store when she said hello. Now I tell them, “Don’t talk to strangers unless a parent is with you.” Because many “strangers” to them are people at my husband’s work or friends of mine from church that they just don’t know. This balance is a hard to find and continues to morph as my children grow up.
The more we do share about our convictions, struggles and growth, the more we set ourselves up for heckling. Not everyone will agree, not everyone will understand, and certainly, not everyone will be gracious with our story. With social media, we have the opportunity to share our beliefs and the work of Christ in our lives, but because of the “safe” distance of social media, more “friends” than ever will feel the right and permission to scream back. Not everyone has the right to speak into my life: not every Facebook friend is a true friend. Knowing when to mute those voices can save you energy and heartache. As my mom encourages me, “Don’t give attention to the cheap seats.” If they don’t invest much in your life, or really know who you are, don’t listen to their jeers or taunts. Their critique doesn’t come from a place of love or compassion, but of arrogance: they want to jump on your platform and kick you off. I know when a friend challenges me to line my emotions and thoughts with truth, and I see their criticism through the filter of love. Don’t dismiss those words, but discern who they come from and why they are spoken.
Proverbs 13:20: Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Proverbs 14:6-7: A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding. Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
Colossians 3:12-14: Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15: For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.