Helping kids find their true selves, the one God created them to be, is a lot like finding the right puzzle pieces to create a beautiful picture. We see the pieces and they look nice on their own, but find the right pieces, put them all together, and it can be beautiful, mesmerizing, and even glorious. I am on a quest to help kids find the right pieces for their individual pictures, then put them in place to see them flourish. I want to help them find their confidence in Christ.
We know self-confidence helps kids avoid peer pressure, drugs, bullying and other negative behaviors. Nonetheless, I want to take it a step further. I desire to help our children create a more radiant picture with their puzzle pieces. I know God created all of us to shine brightly in this world. He wants us to stand out so others see us and are drawn to Him. But standing out in a positive way is counter-cultural. It’s particularly hard for kids. As an adult, I have to daily remind myself that God created me to be me and no one else. I have to retell myself how much God loves me, just as I am, warts and all. If it takes that much effort for us as adults, how much harder is it for kids who are in the developmental phase of finding their identity? What are the barriers to this “God-confidence?”
Dr. Brene’ Brown says shame is a major obstacle to any kind of confidence for most people. She explains we have these tapes playing in our head telling us two predominant messages. The first is “I’m not good enough” and the other is “Who do I think I am?” You know these thoughts; we’ve all had them. Overcoming them takes courage and vulnerability. It is hard to try something different, approach new people, risk failure, or share a novel idea when we think we’re not good enough and have no right to achieve great things anyway.
Dr. Brown proposes empathy as a missing piece. She shares this analogy: If shame is put in a petri dish, it needs secrecy, silence and judgment to grow. If we put it in the same bowl with empathy, it is stifled. Essentially, when we say to kids, “I understand” or “Me too” we fill in a hole that exists in their confidence puzzle. When we remind them God understands them and Jesus lived on this earth experiencing the same human feelings, we help them shape their God-confidence as well.
What if we not only added empathy to the puzzle, but also, “I love you despite your flaws, mistakes, and issues.” It’s the perfect love God provides. We strive to offer it to our children, but it’s hard because we are not God, we are human. But we can remind our kids that God does provide that love. Remind them He created them to be radiant, beautiful individuals, and if they try to be someone else, the world is missing out on God’s gift.
We thank God our children are wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14), but finding the right pieces for each child’s puzzle is not easy or instantaneous. However, when we put adults in their lives who will offer understanding, compassion, empathy, and love, they may be able to run a new narrative in their heads. One that says, “I am worthy of love” and “I am a unique, special child of God.” What a beautiful picture that will be.