“How did you feel when your parents found out?” I asked. Like a typical teen, Megan said, “Well, at first I was really mad at them. Then I felt so embarrassed and exposed.” After saying this, she slowly twiddled with a tassle on her sweater. She then looked up, sighed and quietly muttered, “It also felt strangely freeing as well.” As she tried to find words to express her feelings, she admitted how exhausted she felt from hiding her actions. Even though she had to endure some pretty heavy consequences, there was a big part of her that genuinely felt relieved.
Far beneath the sassy attitude, scowls, angry displays and silent treatment lay thoughts and feelings that exposed a bit of what she really desired. “I’m tired of hiding,” she admitted. “I want someone to know what is really going on in.”
Megan’s sense of relief reflects a desire that lives within every human being. Even though she had spent an enormous amount of time and energy hiding her behavior and protecting her heart, she really wanted to be known. Especially, by mom and dad. God created her with a relentless desire to be known. Because she did not have the courage to reveal her poor choices, Megan kept up her disguise. Unfortunately, the more she hid, the more she hid. Eventually, she was completely unaware of the pain and brokenness she continually concealed in her heart. Megan couldn’t imagine that rest, relief and restoration could actually be found by being vulnerable and transparent with someone she could trust.
As parents, our response to our kids when they are caught plays a key role in either perpetuating the game of hide and seek or ending it. Unfortunately, fear and despair can cause us to freak out, overpower and squelch any desire they may have to tell the truth. If we can view these messes as pivotal moments, however, we can actually take steps that invite them to discover the life they deeply desire.
Remember, they deeply desire to be known. Your teen is aching to live the life they were created to experience. If they behave defensively or aggressively when their junk is revealed, take heart. Even if they don’t express it, these revelations move them away from Enemy territory and into the light. While the Enemy desires to convince them to hide, their lies and deception will eventually destroy relationships and ultimately themselves. God, on the other hand, offers them freedom as they bravely reveal what is going on behind the scenes. Our commitment to pursue our kids, project emotional safety and demonstrate unconditional love can fan the flames on the bit of courage they need to confess and come clean.
Reflect God’s grace. Being found out gives a parent the opportunity to display God’s love and mirror God’s grace. One teen recently told me she felt both shocked and uncomfortable when her parents calmly and lovingly confronted her after finding out about some poor choices she’d made. “I keep waiting for them to freak out or yell at me or angrily glare at me,” she said. This is what she felt she deserved. By verbally and physically expressing their love and favor toward her, while still implementing consequences and setting new boundaries, she understood a bit more about God’s amazing grace.
Remain faithful. When teens get caught doing something they knew they were not supposed to do, you have the opportunity to keep your promise. When a kid has been warned about a consequence and a parent does not follow through, the promise is broken. Demonstrate that you mean what you say and that you will do what you said you would do. A parent who chooses to do the hard thing by being direct, intolerant of destructive behavior and lovingly implements consequences demonstrates what it means to be faithful and trustworthy with regard to commitments.
The next time your kid is engaging in behaviors that are inappropriate, imagine yourself in the trenches. You are, indeed, at war. You are fighting for their character, their future, their life. Getting louder, trying to win arguments or cranking up your control will only interfere with this effort. Instead, consider the One who fought for you and emulate what He has done for you as you interact with your child. Because He made you, He knows what you really need in your most messy moments. Pray that He reveals the root desire beneath your kid’s actions. Because He loves you and died for you, He extends grace and mercy to you even though you never deserve it. Offer this to your kid, especially when they least expect it. Because He is trustworthy, He will always remain faithful. Follow through with the promises you’ve made.