When our little guy was two, he never uttered the words, “I love you.” Never.
He always said, “I wuv you, too.”
Even when no one had recently spoken the words, “I love you” to him. Even when he was first to speak. Even then, he was returning love.
At two, he knew – no matter how much trouble he’d gotten into – that he is loved.
When do we lose that confidence? At six or seven or ten? In middle school sports, or high school band, or writing resumes? When our BFF moves on?
I see it starting in our oldest. When she messes up, she feels less certain of how much she is loved.
Shame is creeping in, whispering lies: Performance earns love. Mistakes make you less lovable. If you’re less lovable, you must be less loved.
All shame’s messages are lies. Ugly lies.
It frustrates me to no end. I want her to know in the core of her being that she is loved no matter what! And my frustration and annoyance convey that message so well. (insert eye-rolling emoji here)
But don’t I do exactly the same thing? I seldom say it out loud, of course, but sometimes I feel…
… a little disappointing.
I forget something my husband asked me to do and I find myself thinking, “Wow, he must be disappointed in me!”
And isn’t disappointing less lovable than over-achieving, super-mom?
And isn’t less lovable, well …
… less loved?
Do you see how self-centered this thinking is? Instead of being concerned that my husband may feel overlooked or forgotten, I make it all about me. What he might be thinking of me. How bad I feel. Honestly!
I see my kids doing the same thing and it drives me crazy!
“I did it wrong. (So) I’m dumb.”
“I hurt her. (So) I’m bad.”
(Note the absence of concern for the one holding an ice pack over her eye?)
At two, it’s so simple! There may have been kicking and crying as he resisted rather than obeyed. He may have been physically wrestled into his timeout spot, but once the tears die down, it’s just a shrug and, “Otay, saw-ry Mommy. I wuv you, too.”
He can start fresh without any wavering in his sense of being loved.
When do we begin to believe God’s forgiveness is more complicated than that? Can I believe God forgives when I really don’t deserve it? And, just when have I ever deserved it?
So, instead of wallowing in how bad I feel about my recent failure, let’s think on something “true, noble and right” (Philippians 4:8).
“God showed his love for us in this, while we were still sinners” – not when we became impressive, religious, or gracious. Not when we gave away enough of our stuff or put in enough volunteer hours. No! “…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
To love as Christ loved us means we love our kids when they are immature and annoying, as well as when they are charming and brilliant.
My kids don’t need to earn my love.
I don’t need to earn God’s love.
We need to be reminded of this truth over and over and over. And so do our kids.
Let’s be intentional today by using words that affirm that our kids don’t need to impress us to earn our love. Let’s ask, “Was that wise?” instead of “How dumb can you be?!”
Let’s choose words that are not open to interpretation by shame’s lies.
Likewise, in our self-talk, let’s try, “What can I do better next time?” in place of, “I’ll never get this right.”
And the truth will set us all free.
Note – For more insights about shame and tools for “shame resilience”, not becoming trapped by shame’s lies, check out Brene Brown’s, Daring Greatly and her TED talks .