I’ve never learned so much about God’s love than through parenting. And not just in the typical way, like I love this little human so much and it’s just a fraction of how much God loves us. But more in that I’m constantly facing the choice between grace and shame, and I’m constantly reminded that God covers us with grace when we deserve shame. He never shames us for a mistake. He never shames us for our anger or sadness. He never refuses us when we need comfort, and he never turns away even if we turn away from him. It’s always grace upon grace upon grace.
And so I’m constantly reminded to do the same. When she’s angry or frustrated and I don’t understand why: grace. When she hits me and kicks me because she doesn’t know how else to express her emotions: grace. When she disobeys me: grace. When she makes a mistake: grace. When she does something unkind to a friend: grace.
Sometimes we may think (I used to think) shame will motivate good behavior, because they’ll be afraid to do it again. But God doesn’t shame us into obeying him, we obey him because he’s been so good and gracious to us. We obey him because we WANT to, knowing that he loves us and has our best interest at heart, not because we’re afraid of the consequences or the guilt and the shame.
If we are simply raising rule followers, kids that obey because they’re afraid of being shamed or getting in “trouble”, then we’ve lost the heart behind it all. We want our children to do what’s right because it’s right, not because they’ll be rewarded for doing what’s right or get in trouble for doing what’s wrong, simply because it’s right. If we teach them to do what’s right based on our reaction or based on the consequence, then will they still do what’s right when no one is looking? We teach our children integrity by focusing on the heart of the matter, rather than just the outer behavior. We give them boundaries and teach them right from wrong, but give grace when boundaries are crossed. It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (romans 2:4-5), not his wrath or shame or guilt or even the consequences of our actions.