By Dannah Gresh, Founder of True Girl
It is a great victory to have our children confess their sin to us, but there may also be few other times that a mom’s reaction could really be hurtful and not helpful. (Takes a mom who has messed it up a few times to know that.)
When our children confess sin to us, I believe there is a great battle between good and evil being fought over their souls, and our responses as mothers can often turn the tide of the battle. So, let me share three pieces of advice with you that can help you fight with and for God’s side.
These three ideas came to me one morning as I was praying for moms who are guiding their daughters through Lies Girls Believe & The Truth That Sets Them Free. I’m getting many e-mails from moms and daughters as they use the book. They often report that their daughter’s heart is softened and she confesses during the mother/daughter conversation time. Here’s what one tween girl wrote to me:
"Before I began this Bible study I thought it was going to be like all the others that I've done. THEY DIDN'T WORK. I felt like none of them helped me in life and just were not meant for me. I have had this problem of lying lately. I really needed help fast with this problem. Once you start down this path, it is hard to get off it. A lady at our church offered [Lies Girls Believe] to us. My Mom asked me if I wanted to do it and I said, “Sure.” ... The first week I was kind of like, "So, this is okay." But then this Bible study launched into me!!! It helped me so much! ... I figured out why I lie to my parents sometimes. It is because they look so perfect! I have never really seen them sin. So, if I did something bad I would try to hide it because I didn't want them to think I was a bad kid. But one night when my Mom and I were discussing a chapter, she said that her and my Dad didn’t expect me to be perfect. Then I let all my emotions out. It felt good. My Mom told me she messed up so many times, too. That made me feel a lot better! So, I also got more close to my Mom! This Bible study has changed my life!"
I hope you get the privilege of having conversations like that with your daughter.
But I’d like to share three pieces of advice with you so that the conversation is fruitful. I got these thoughts when I was praying for all the moms using the book one morning and was reading Genesis 3:8-13. It says.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
As I read this passage, I considered how God responded to Adam and Eve when they sinned. And then, I applied it to how we can respond to our children when they sin. Here are three things I see in God’s response, that may help us with ours.
Focus On How Your Daughter Feels, Not Her Sin
It’s easy to freak out when your daughter confesses something to you, or to just focus on the act of sin itself. But those responses don’t help them navigate through why they sinned or help them stop.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam confessed feeling naked. But he does not confess his sin. God says, “Where are you?” and Adam says, “I felt naked.” The Hebrew word means naked, but the root of the word means exposed. Adam was saying, “God, I feel really exposed right now!”
As I was reading that, I realized that’s kind of the first step to freedom that we all go through. We are aware of how we feel. We’ll say I feel anxious. I feel afraid. I feel stressed out. I feel ashamed. I feel naked. I feel exposed. But we’re not quick to say why. It’s not as easy to say, I lied. I am doing too much. I stole something. I sinned.
Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth was brilliant when she wrote Lies Women Believe & The Truth That Sets Them Free. She used our emotions as a trail to help us identify the lies that lead to our sin. Those lies are the root of the sin that grew within us. And if we don’t rip the root up with the sin, it’s just going to grow back. Take time to focus on how your daughter feels, not her sin.
Mayzie felt embarrassed and ashamed about her sin. She also felt overwhelmed by her parent’s seemingly sinless lives. That was a part of what led to lying and hiding her sin. Mayzie’s mom was not afraid to talk about how Mayzie felt. And that opened her heart to see why she was sinning in the first place. Together, they ripped up the root.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t talk about the sin. But that comes second. You need to ask her to call her sin by its name.
Ask Her To Call Her Sin By Its Name
Confessing our sin requires us to name it and identify it as sin. But that’s so hard to do. I have discovered something when counseling women all over the world: it’s hard to use the words. It’s hard to say, I’m cutting. I lied. I gossip. I’m looking at pornography. As women, it’s hard to use the words. Imagine being 12 again and having to confess these things. The conversation in the Garden of Eden offers us a good example of how to draw the words out.
Adam isn’t quite sure why he feels so naked. God is. But he leads Adam gently to confess the sin by starting with his emotion and then asking questions to prompt the confession. God says, “Did you eat from the tree?” He uses the words.
I have found that it’s helpful to use the words, just as God did. I’ll say, “Are you telling me you lied to your husband?” Or if it’s a teenager, “Are you telling me you’re struggling with pornography?” Or maybe a tween girl will need me to say, “Did you steal the gum?”
Be discerning. If you feel like your daughters’ emotions are attached to a sin and she’s having a hard time confessing, guide her with gentle questions. Do not be too abrupt with them. Certainly, don’t use them in an accusatory way. But patiently wait for her to call sin by its name.
Expect More Emotions
When Adam and Eve realized God was onto their story, they got more emotional. How do I know this? They starting blaming others. Adam says, “It’s her fault.” Then Eve says, “it’s the snake’s fault.” Blame is a form of anger. It’s one of many forms that we use to both explain and express anger. It’s not the most volatile or explosive form of it, but it is anger none-the-less. When we are blaming someone it’s usually because we’re angry. We might be angry at someone who was around when we sinned. We might be angry that we got caught. But anger can be the beginning of repentance. We’re sometimes angry at ourselves or just what happened.
What I want to say is this: it is normal for your daughter to react with anger when you’re talking about sin, but it not all bad news. If you can dismantle the anger and blame, you’ll often find the sadness and repentance that those emotions try to strangle. If you know this ahead of time, you can expect it and be prepared to respond well. Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t react to it. Be patient. It never feels good for our sins to be exposed. I’m 50 years old and when my sin is exposed, I do not like it. I’ve figured out that I usually need to confess my sins, but in all my years of practice at sinning and confessing...it has never felt good. Not once. My emotions are always doing crazy things until I get past the confession and feel the peace of forgiveness.
These three things are not a step-by-step plan to guiding your daughter through confession, nor is it complete. (I delve more deeply into the topic in A Mom’s Guide To Lies Girls Believe.) But, I hope it’s helpful as you seek to help your daughter walk in Truth.
Dannah Gresh is the founder of True Girl (formerly Secret Keeper Girl), a ministry that brings moms and daughters closer to each other and closer to Jesus. True Girl provides connection experiences through books, online Bible studies, and live events. You can learn more about her at dannahgresh.com.