by Anne Kerr
Family Care Specialist
Sexuality is one of the most common aspects of being human, yet one of the most difficult to talk about. Why is that? Why are we so reticent to share about sexual wounds or sin with a spouse, a close friend, or a child? I believe it is because the enemy of our souls knows the power of authenticity to heal and unify us.
Often we hide our stories out of fear of losing the one we have hurt. Or we haven’t found that true freedom that allows us to be fully known and consequently fully loved.
In his book Unwanted: How Our Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing, Jay Stringer speaks compassionately of how our stories of sexual brokenness often are the key to moving toward sexual health and healing.
In my own life and in the lives of many others, conversations about sexual wounds and wanderings have been powerful to set us free from the bondage of sin and shame. And in a parent-child relationship, such stories (when shared appropriately) can be powerful to build bonds of trust for
Today’s kids need our stories of struggle, failure, and redemption. They need to know they are not facing the challenges of today’s culture alone.
Often parents share their concerns related to sharing honestly with their kids….
I had a friend advise me not to share of my sexual wounds and wanderings with my children as they were growing up. She said they might look at me and think that because I turned out okay, they would believe they could sin and turn out okay also. I wish I’d followed my gut and been more authentic rather than remaining silent and maintaining the appearance of propriety.
I believe both pride and fear kept me from being authentic and real. And I believe I lost an opportunity to gain my children’s trust for very tender and timely conversations related to sexuality.
My friend’s advice was well-intentioned, but it was based in fear, not authenticity and gospel grace. It assumed that conveying perfection to my kids would lead them toward perfection. I don’t think it works that way. For one thing, perfection should not be the goal. Christ was the only perfect one. But learning to live and love as Christ does is truly life-altering, and Christ was undeniably authentic.
I help parents become allies to their kids in a sexualized culture. An ally is someone a child turns to rather than hides from as he or she becomes more aware of sexuality or experiences things related to it.
Most of us hid in those moments, for example, seeing porn for the first time, experiencing sexual abuse, or discovering the pleasure of self-touch.
Without a safe person to help us process our pain, help us with a sin struggle, or provide protection, we internalized fear or shame related to sexuality. Fear and shame foster more hiding and make conversations even more difficult.
Being an ally means working through the obstacle of fear that often leads to hiding.
The way of an ally happens to be Jesus’ way also. It’s sharing honestly and humbly without fear or shame. It’s being wise to share generally without traumatizing or painting too vivid of a picture for a child. It’s trusting God with outcomes. It’s allowing God to use our brokenness in the lives of our
children. It’s being real. Being human. And being willing to grow and move toward healing for our own shame or freedom from our sin patterns.
Jesus models this for us.
Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you [a yoke is made for two] and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus invites us to come to Him just as we are and to share our burdens with Him so we can live free. Jesus will equip us to welcome the people in our lives who need to share their burdens.
If you’re in the parenting years, invite your little ones to come to you and not hide in their sin or sorrow or shame. Create that open door. Encourage them to lay their burdens down and to share their yoke－the yoke of shame, emotional turmoil, sin, regret, fear, uncertainty, or whatever－with you and with Jesus. A burden shared is half a burden. This will look different at every age.
Teach and model what it looks like to fail, to repent, to make restitution for our mistakes, and to live in the boundless and free grace of forgiveness and unconditional love.
Your children will be much more likely to turn to you when they make mistakes if you've modeled what this looks like and if they aren't afraid of you or your reaction.
Sexuality is so personal. It's easy to see how we learn to hide. We communicate privacy because that’s an important concept for little ones to learn. A level of modesty that isn’t shaming is good.
But somehow, we as Christians seem to have gotten the messaging all mixed up. We have traded the goodness of bodies and sexuality for the darkness of sin, shame, and hiding. We must reclaim bodies and sexuality for God, for His purposes, within His good design as written in His word. And we don’t need to be ashamed of anything about sexuality because God isn’t.
Find a close friend to begin to share your stories with. Cry over innocence lost, or regret, or someone’s sin against you, or poor choices made. Let that younger version of yourself express what he or she could not express then. Be compassionate toward your younger self. Perhaps find a counselor to share with, or share with your spouse.
A therapist friend once told me that she counsels many people individually but she begins to see real growth in group therapy. When I asked why, she said that there is something powerful that happens when we begin to share our deepest shame with others and realize that we are still lovable.
For parents wanting to understand better the power of their stories, I highly recommend John Fort’s book Honest Talk: A New Perspective on Talking to Your Kids About Sex. John helps parents learn the value of their stories to create bonds of trust with their children, and he shows them how to do this well.
God’s grace is for the moment, and His grace covers all our sin and shame. I pray God will lead you to at least one safe person to begin sharing your stories with. Vulnerability breeds vulnerability. Vulnerability is often the first step toward exponential spiritual and relational growth.
You will probably never have to share your story on a stage as I often do, but if you’re a mom or dad you have an incredible audience in front of you right now.
No matter what stage you’re in, your friends need your stories. We are so much better together, and God created us to live authentically in relationship with each other. Become that ally that someone in your life needs. Let Jesus show you how.