As I keep on with this series addressing childhood depression, I am thankful to those of you who have reached out to me to let me know what I am writing is offering you hope and encouragement as you walk this tough road with your child. I have taken all your situations to heart and have been praying for you and your children. Thank you for sharing with me and being open to how important this subject is to be talking about.
Once again, I am using a letter in the word “LIGHTS” to highlight this third post in this series. Today’s letter is “G” and the warning light subject we are going to address is Guilt, while the guiding light discussion will be focused on Grace.
Warning “G” – Guilt, and Continuing Shame
Guilt, if left to fester, can enslave anyone. The two most typical ways a child will be swallowed up with guilt is:
Reliving past mistakes or missed opportunities
Taking on responsibility for being abused or taken advantage of
David, in Psalm 38, perfectly describes what festering guilt can do to a person’s life:
“For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.” Psalm 38:4
Guilt Over Past Mistakes or Missed Opportunities
Children who place stiff requirements on themselves for how they are to perform, how they should be able to act, or even how others should perceive them often heap guilty burdens upon themselves without even knowing.
Parents who realize they have a child who struggles in this area needs to work very hard on being transparent with their own child of how they mess up as well as people their child admires. If a child can see how perfection is a facade and everyone, even the people whom they most admire, are fallible and miss saying or doing the right thing all the time, they are better able to set more realistic ideals for their own life.
Guilt Over Abuse/Bullying
On the other hand, children can also take on the guilt of someone else who has abused or mistreated them. This type of guilt, a child should not have any reason to take ownership of, but it’s often how most children who have been victimized react. Usually it is not enough for a child to be told that their assailant was in the wrong and they are not to blame because the root for their guilt lies deeper than those reassurances can reach.
Instead, a child needs to slowly heal through a repetitive forgiveness process…one that takes much work on the part of a parent, and sometimes a counselor. As a child lets go of the hurt little by little, the healing begins to repair their heart and heal their soul. Truly it is a work that God must be part of and it is not something to be rushed. In the end the goal is to help the child see the sin, heal from the hurt, forgive the person who hurt them, and eventually understand the purpose God had in allowing them to go through the experience AND the healing.
Guiding “G” – Grace of God
Being completely forgiven by the grace of God is sometimes a fact taken so simply by Christians that we often don’t break it down as we should so we can fully embrace how it moves us from being sinful or guilt ridden, to being completely redeemed before God.
A method I developed to help myself and my boys when they were younger, is called the ABCD Grace Method. In using this method, my children and I learned not only to accept God’s grace for our shortcomings, but also how we must move forward freely in the grace God provides.
ABCD Grace Method
A – Accept
Accept that I am a sinner and that my sinful act was a result of my natural inclination to seek the things of the flesh instead of the things of God
B – Believe
Believe the work Jesus did on the cross, His perfect sacrifice and shedding of blood for my sins, was all that is necessary to wipe away my sin
C – Confess
Confess to God that I can’t do life on my own. I need Him and I need His forgiveness and I need His help as I keep on going
D – Decide
Decide to learn from my failure, move forward leaving the sin and guilt behind but taking forward the lesson God allowed me to learn about myself and the fallen world I live in
Silver Lining of Guilt and Grace
Learning to Give Grace
As a child, I was a perfectionist and I didn’t give myself any room for error. I constantly beat myself up with my thoughts and expectations for how I didn’t handle life as well as I felt I should have. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I first encountered the word grace and how God’s grace applied to me. I was overwhelmed at the idea that I had been perceiving life from the wrong perspective for so long.
Over the years I have learned not only give myself grace, but also give grace to others realizing they too suffer from the same sinful condition I do…and they too are just trying their best.
Burdened for a Purpose
As I look back at the contrast how living in guilt versus living in grace has affected my life, I realize how much lighter my life feels now. But, in carrying those guilt burdens for so many years, I know I can more greatly empathize with the great heaviness those without Jesus carry.
Be encouraged parents. Your child who is struggling with depression may not yet understand how much they need grace, but God will not allow them to carry their unnecessary guilt any longer than they need. His grace is freeing and it will come into their lives at just the perfect timing.
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