During a small group discussion last night, I was reminded how God may at times be displeased with us and will correct us, but his acts of mercy and forgiveness are even more pronounced. This morning as I reflected on that discussion, I remembered a wonderful verse that embodies that sentiment. John 1:17 says, “But the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” It struck me then, that I should be parenting with grace and truth.
Jesus Approached People with Grace and Truth
Jesus Christ gave us truth but also gave us grace. Truth sometimes hurts, especially when it is in the context of our mistakes and failures. But in Christ’s eyes, truth does not come without the grace, the forgiveness, and the love.
And that is exactly how Jesus Christ related to people. He gave them truth. He told sinners that they needed to change their ways, but at the same time he gave them grace. He loved them, forgave them, and looked past their sinful nature. Ultimately, he died for them. He died for us.
We Should Also Parent With Grace and Truth
I realized this morning that that is exactly how I should approach parenting, with truth and with grace. Our children need to be told the truth when their behavior is not up to par and when they have missed the mark. Discipline is an important part of parenting to help correct their incorrect thinking. However, they also need to see grace from us. They need to know that our love is not dependent on their perfection or on how good they are, just the way God’s love is not dependent on how well we behave. It is by grace that we are saved.
Lack of Grace Damages the Heart
I saw this play out in two different ways with my eight-year-old daughter. A few days ago I sat down with her and in a very calm voice, I told her that her behavior the past week needed improvement. I was actually quite proud of myself for showing extreme self control. I left her room and went downstairs to finish dinner under a false sense of achievement.
When my husband called her down to eat, she uncharacteristically did not answer. My husband and I looked at each other and went upstairs to find out what was going on. We found her sobbing in her room, “I am such a bad kid! I cannot do anything right!” My husband gave me a look of, “What in the world did you tell her?” I swore to him that it wasn’t anything bad other than to point out that she needed to improve in certain areas.
My daughter does tend to be overdramatic, but we could tell that she was genuinely feeling bad about herself. Of course, we hugged her and kissed her and explained to her that it was important that she be corrected, that bad behavior would have consequences, but that by no means meant that we thought she was a bad kid.
She calmed down and I believe that in that moment she understood and believed us, but it the incident sure raised a lot of questions for me. Was my daughter seeing enough grace from us, her parents? Did she know that we loved her unconditionally? She clearly was not and it was damaging her little heart. It took a few years for me to actually get this right, and you can see how “condemnation parenting “was negatively affecting my relationship with my daughter in Why Does My Daughter Hate Me?
Grace Can Lift the Spirits
My daughter has a chore chart that tracks her responsibilities throughout the day. One missed chore translates to money deducted from her allowance (meager as it may be). On one particular day, she neglected one of her responsibilities so I deducted a point. For whatever reason, later in the day I felt inspired to re-add the point she had missed. She gave me a funny look and said, “What was that for?”
“Nothing,” I said, “I was just wanted to be gracious.”
“What is gracious?”
“Gracious comes from the word grace. Grace is unmerited favor. That means that you get something even though you did not earn it.”
“Just like Jesus died on the cross for us because he loved us even though we did not deserve it?”
“Exactly! And that is the reason that we now have eternal life.”
She had a huge smile on her face, looked at her chart, hugged me, and ran upstairs. What had once been an abstract concept, became real for her right there and then. She understood grace. She understood love.
Thinking back to the whole “bad kid” episode, I realize that after correcting her, I needed to point out all the things that make her so wonderful. Especially for my very sensitive child. I needed to balance out my chastisement with grace so that she would also feel loved and worthy. She needed to feel grace. And that is what parenting is, a balancing act between grace and truth.
I am interested in your thoughts! Feel free to leave a comment below!