To offer my kids a modicum of privacy, this post blurs some details. But I want to explore a potential paradox of wrongdoing that maybe you can shed some light for me on.
With apologies to Aaron, I do want to let you know this post is about him. Not to embarrass him, but because I think this is something where his gender is a relevant piece of information.
He has a habit of not brushing his teeth at night and then lying about it. Both are bad but I think you would agree that the latter is worse. He just can't bring himself to tell the truth when caught in a lie, because he hates getting in trouble, not realizing that by lying he is getting into further trouble.
Not brushing your teeth is not that big a deal, but lying obviously is, because it creates a pattern that can lead to even worse wrongdoing. But it seems the more he lies and gets caught, the more he feels he has to lie because he knows he should know better.
It is good that he feels awful when he is caught. That is called guilt, and it comes from having a conscience. And each time this happens, we let him know that, and we remind him that if he comes clean, we can and will forgive him. Every single time, no matter how many times. And that ultimately, he needs to understand that he needs to fess up to God, and that God can and will forgive him. Every single time, no matter how many times.
I don't think anything I've just said is controversial. By and large, we would say that as parents we can and do forgive our kids time and again. This is part of being a loving parent.
And yet I also feel it's important for Aaron to learn another, seemingly contradictory lesson, and that is that the critical importance of self-control. When Asher gets older, I will instill this same lesson, which I suppose applies to girls too but here I am thinking of boys. And that is that they need to be careful because lack of self-control can cause you do to something in the heat of the moment that is irreversible. You can harm someone or yourself, or break the law, or do any number of rash and impulsive things that saying sorry won't cover up, and that you may spend your whole life regretting or event paying the penalty for.
The reason I think of this as particularly relevant for boys rather than girls is that it seems that boys struggle more with self-control. And so I want to instill in Aaron an ability to control himself, so that in the heat of the moment he doesn't do something that he cannot undo and that he will live to regret.
And such is the paradox of wrongdoing. Love and forgiveness can and do cover a multitude of sins. But there is such a thing as one careless and stupid act producing a tragic and unchangeable outcome. O God, help our boys to have self-control, and to receive your forgiveness too.