Toxic Emotion… Shame


Brad Mathias talks of the importance of age 13 and what your child believes.

Hanging out with a legit MDiv – MA in Counseling, family therapist, is always enlightening. It’s not always comfortable to be tinkering under my skullcap, but it’s always insightful. The subject of parenting tweens came up, as well as my work with iShine, pastoring and parenthood.

I explained how iShine focuses on reaching pre-teens with a message of Value -Identity and Purpose (VIP) before their 13th birthday. I noted multiple studies with stats on establishing that what a kid believes by 13 is what they believe for life.

He soberly nodded and then shared this wasn’t only true in the spiritual and social aspects of a person, but in their psychological and emotional make up as well. Noting that his marriage counseling sessions seemed to primarily focus on parents who were struggling with their own repeated turbulent life cycles, with a common thread of “complex trauma” and emotional baggage that re-defined their understanding of not only God but of their “self”.

He connected the dots for me… that most, if not all, of those marriage and relational adult issues came from events in their tween years and formed the basis for the addictive and destructive psychological conditions in his counseling practice. I asked him what’s THE most common issue adults within the world of Christianity struggle with… His response, a very toxic emotion called SHAME.

ZINGA! Light Bulb moment

It finally occurred to me that reaching tweens by the age of 13 was not only about helping them find the truth within our Christian heritage of faith, but also understanding the truth about themselves and the truth about the nature of their heavenly father. After all, if what a 13 year old believed about global warming and Islam was an issue, how critical is it for that same kid to grasp the truth about the nature of sin,guilt and SHAME and the power of the cross to deliver them from all that!

So… parents, pastors, friends, teachers (educators and homeschooling mommas), can we be sure to add the topic of SHAME to what we teach and tell about God and the truly good news of our Gospel. That our personal forgiveness is not a one time option to experience or extend, but a lifetime habit to develop!

SHAME is at the top of the list for TOXIC beliefs that rob us of life. Talking with the professional therapist, I realized how poorly the church traditionally responds to a Christian’s humanity in the context of life “after” conversion.

It’s more dangerous than awkward to discuss your personal struggles in most churches; knowing that if you do, the mutterings will begin and your personal relationships will end. So we eventually get wise, move on and rarely, if ever, dare to do so again. It leaves a vacuum in the psyche of our souls as to the nature of shame and pain and God’s acceptance of us as we actually are and that empty space can get full of every kind of lie and half truth the pit of hell can fill it with. Starting at 13 and going right up to the point where we run away from faith and never – ever turn back to try again.

Parents, it’s essential to be intentional with our pre-teens about their faith and beliefs …but I believe it’s even more valuable to be intentional with our kids to explain and show them about true forgiveness. To talk openly about the humanity of an authentic Christian who "struggles” with their faith, learning and growing through their mistakes and missteps, always trusting, always hoping, always believing that God is able when we’re not.

This is a critical insight for our kids, it’s essential for them to see us move past our SHAME and focus on God’s grace and not just our sin. After all, if our faith can’t save us as we are…. what good is it?

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