Your child’s in jail. They have an eating disorder. They cut and slash at their flesh, burn themselves and break bones. They’re addicted to porn, sex, drugs or alcohol. They’re in a relationship with the same sex. They suffer with depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, PTSD or an anxiety disorder. They’ve attempted suicide. You can’t understand how you got here. How could this happen? Where did you go wrong?
You tried so hard: to be a good parent, to do the right things, to give them everything, to raise a healthy, thriving adult – and now this. The emotional pain defies description. And you feel so guilty. So terribly, horribly guilty.
Some may have inferred that their troubles are somehow your fault.
“Did you discipline them enough?”
“Is it possible you were too harsh?”
“Maybe you should’ve done_____, then ________ wouldn’t have happened.”
Their well-meaning words felt like a knife in the heart. Worse yet, you began to doubt yourself, “Could it be true? Are they right? Are my child’s troubles somehow my fault?”
Please listen closely. I want you to know that unless you encouraged your child’s behaviors or pushed them into their current situation with your blessing, IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT! Did you hear that?
Refuse the guilt. Don’t give in to it. Stop berating yourself. Don’t believe the lie that their troubles are the result of something you did or didn’t do. And don’t let the if-only’s harass you, either. Throw a big Rock at them and walk away. The Rock is Jesus. Send him to the door when guilt comes knocking. Bring His truth to counter every accusation the Enemy screams in your head. God’s Truth for Satan’s lies.
I understand. Like you, I struggled with guilt, too.
Then I met another parent who had walked this journey much longer than I. He reminded me of something I would need to remember for years to come. His words still have a huge impact. Here’s the gist of what he said:
Stop feeling guilty about your child because God, the only perfect parent who never made any mistakes, also has children who mess up and do terrible things. Look what happened to Adam and Eve. Was it God’s fault? Not at all! Our parenting skills can’t begin to compare with His, but if the all-powerful God of the universe ended up with children who hurt and disappoint Him, then who are we to think that we deserve any better? Hmmmmm…
You’ll probably want to think about this for a while. It’ll take time for these words sink into your heart and mind – until you can believe they’re really true. Where you feel the need, forgive yourself and accept God’s forgiveness. But know that He doesn’t blame you for your child’s choices. He looks on you with compassion and empathy. As a fellow hurting parent, He understands the heaviness you carry and I strongly believe He doesn’t want you to add more to it.
The following Scripture gives me peace when I start to blame myself again. It sheds light on what we can do when we have a guilt attack:
God of abundant understanding, when guilt weighs heavy on our hearts remind us what’s true. Open our ears to Your comforting voice. Help us keep our eyes on You. It’s the best thing we can do.