Teaching my Children to have Thick Skin

So many people today have such thin skin. We have to walk around on egg shells to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. We can’t speak out against something for fear of offending someone. And we have such a skewed view of love.

I want to teach my kids to be able to handle the bad things people are going to say about them and to them. I want them to be able to face a challenge and not run away in fear or go crying to someone to fight in their place. I want them to know what it’s like to lose, because the truth is, not everyone is a winner. They are going to hear honest and sometimes brutal truth from me because I want them to grow up with thick skin. I want my babies to grow into healthy, mature adults and not remain babies who cry about everything. They will know that I love them fiercely because I will encourage them towards holiness, no matter what they think makes them happy or what makes them feel good.

To further illustrate this idea, here is an excerpt from one of John Piper’s sermons:

In America, and in little circles where I function, love and how it gets expressed is in great measure controlled by how we think people are going to feel about what we say and what we do. America these days it seems to me, and I see book titles bearing witness to it, are a people, not entirely but in large measure, with very thin skins. Very given to feeling like victims, feeling like they’re offended and they’re wounded and they are easily hurt, and therefore it’s always someone else’s problem we can put our bad feelings on. Which means that the way we express love to one another and to people we might think need a tough word gets restricted because we feel ourselves held hostage by their bad feelings. In other words, if they can convince us by body language or by words or by lifestyle that if we say this then they are gonna feel bad and we say, ‘probably not the loving thing to say.’ So instead of the bottom line of love being a principle or a biblical rule or really what’s best for people, its just feelings. How are they gonna feel if we do this or say this? What I’m saying is Christians ought to be different from our culture. We ought to be different. We ought not to have thin skins. The church ought to be a place with thick skin. Why? Because we don’t get our significance and our stability and our security and our meaning and our worth from what people say about us! Do we? Do you? I fear many of us do. There is a constant temptation to want to be liked, to want to have people say nice things about us, we want to be approved, and to get all of our joy and strength from day to day by the echo of what is coming back to us in what we say. Bad news! That is bad, bad, bad! That is what human beings without Christ are. But we are different! Why? We are loved by God, we are chosen by God, we are forgiven by God, we are accepted by God, we are indwelt by God, we are strengthened by God, we are guided by God, we are secured by God, we are surrounded by God. He is underneath, He is on top, He is everywhere. What do we care? Or do we? Do we believe it, that’s the issue. Do we believe that who we are, where we are going, how we get there, is God’s thing, not the world’s or even other Christians? And so I just plead with you not to be apart of the cultural thin skinness, so that when some hard word lands on you, true or false, some ugly criticism, some slander, or some legitimate rebuke, you don’t do like the world. The world does generally one of two things: It shrinks into a little corner of self-pity and woundedness and ‘oh poor me, how could you ever do that to me, oh’ or it sues you for harassment! And they are both pulling from the same issue of thin skin. People who don’t have their bearings, who don’t have roots, everything is being governed by how you come on to them. Don’t be like that!

As a parent, I want my children to be happy. I want to see good things happen to them. But more than that, I want them to know Christ and to be holy. I don’t discipline my children based on how they feel about it. I discipline them because it is good for them, because I love them, whether they feel good about it or not. The discipline always hurts in one way or another and it doesn’t make them happy in the moment but that doesn’t keep me from acting out of love and teaching them that there are standards by which they must live. I love my children and so I discipline them, no matter that it makes them cry or unhappy with me. The motivation is that they learn and that their hearts are molded into ones of honesty, maturity, and integrity. I will not sacrifice that for a few moments of my child’s temporary happiness in doing what is wrong.

I want my children to learn to not live their life based on their feelings alone. Feelings can be valid, I can attest, but they alone cannot be the basis of our reasoning. I want them to take responsibility for their feelings and for themselves. I want to give them tools so that they know how to appropriately respond to how they feel, whether positive or negative. I want them to be okay with having their feelings hurt. I want them to be open to criticism. I want them to be humble enough that they aren’t completely broken down when people come against them. And I want them to be strong enough, thick skinned enough, that they don’t sacrifice truth for the feelings of others.

Most of all, I want them to know what real love is. I want them to love people by standing for truth, by pushing back against lies, against flippant feelings, and against this ridiculous belief that love is always consenting to everyone’s feelings. If they see a friend making a mistake, I want them to love that person well enough that they go to that friend and say, “this is wrong,” instead of saying, “whatever makes you happy.” Because in the end, real love wants what is best for others (now and in light of eternity), and not just happiness by whatever means possible.

Right now, my oldest is 3 years old. Eating as much chocolate as he wants makes him happy. I enjoy when he is happy but does that mean I let him eat large amounts of chocolate? No, because I want what is best for him which is a healthy diet. So that means I limit his chocolate intake even though it upsets him when I tell him he’s had enough. And one day, my teenage son will probably think that having sex with his girlfriend will make him happy. I want him to be happy but does that mean I give him a box of condoms and tell him to go for it? No! I will teach him how wonderful and powerful sex is when it is done in the context of marriage and I will encourage him to wait to make love to his wife. I will do this because it is what is right in the eyes of the Lord and because I know that it is what is best for my son. I know that those few fleeting moments of pleasure are nothing in comparison to a lifelong sexual commitment to your spouse. I love him and I want what is best for him so I will have those embarrassing conversations with him and I will enforce the guidelines that will be in place to help him abstain.

This should all be common sense and yet somehow we fail to translate this over to the rest of our dealings with the world. Homosexuality is against God’s Word and as such, is harmful for all. Yet I’m not suppose to say that because what about people’s feelings? What about what makes them happy? How dare I offend homosexuals! But I love homosexuals and because I do, I want them to find healing from their sin. I want them to know the Lord. I want them to know the freedom and grace that He brings to those who call Him Abba, Father. Yet somehow, I’m being hateful. I don’t support their lifestyle and I believe they are living in sin even though it makes them happy and even though they love their partner and somehow, this makes me hateful of them. But the truth is is that I want them to be happy and I want them to love and be loved, but not at the sacrifice of the Lord’s holy Word; not at the sacrifice of doing what is right. Repentance and forgiveness is what will bring them joy and true love; this is what is best for them, this is what I want for them because I love them.

I hope and pray that my children will grow up with this same view of love; that they will love others by staying true to God’s Word. It takes thick skin to stand on God’s truth and remain there in the face of judgement and hatred. I want my kids to stand strong so I will pray for their souls, I will teach them to love others, and I will thicken their skin.

Soli Deo Gloria


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