One of the pastors at our church resigned this week due to a moral failing. Unfortunately, this is a road that my husband and I have walked before. But this is the first time we've had to explain it to our kids.
After a fun weekend at the lake, we chose to use our time in the car on the way home to talk to our girls about it. It was tough. My older daughter has vague memories of the last time we went through this, but this was a new concept for my younger daughter. She had a hard time wrapping her head around the idea that someone she loved and admired -- who worked at the church -- could do something that would cost him the opportunity to serve in that capacity.
As hard as it is for us as adults to understand why sin has such a hold on us, it's even tougher for our kids. Many kids see everything in black and white, right and wrong. It's hard for them to understand how we can still love someone yet that person would not be allowed to continue doing the things they had been doing.
So, what do you tell your kids when someone they admire fails? How do you explain that sometimes love and forgiveness isn't enough to take away the consequences of our choices? How do you help them understand that no failing is too great for God's love?
You simply do the best you can. You pray for wisdom, then you start talking. Talk to your kids honestly and at an age-appropriate level. Even though it would be easy to sugar-coat the truth to save our kids from the pain and questions, it's better to tell them an age-appropriate version of the truth. In many situations, they're going to hear it from someone else anyway. Wouldn't you rather they hear it from you first?
We put the focus on choices. When something like this happens, we talk to our kids about what happens when they make bad choices. We talk about how even though we love them, many times there are consequences for poor choices. Then we simply explain that the person they admire made a poor choice and sometimes when you're a grown-up, the consequences are greater than being sent to your room or having to apologize.
We also place an emphasis on love. We talk with our kids about how someone's poor choices don't mean we stop loving them. We can disagree with what they have chosen to do, but it doesn't mean we can never talk to them again or pray for them. God doesn't stop loving us when we make a poor choice, and He doesn't expect us to stop loving others.
We talk about forgiveness. We talk with our kids about how poor choices often require forgiveness -- from God and from other people. Forgiveness from God is between God and that person, but forgiveness from those who have been hurt doesn't depend on the other person saying they're sorry. We can forgive someone for the hurt they have caused without ever talking to them -- because forgiveness is more about healing our own hearts than it is about the other person.
Last, we talk about not putting people on a pedestal. The truth is that we're all human. We all fail. Some of our failures affect other people. Some of our failures affect only us. When we give our admiration to humans, we're setting ourselves up to be hurt. We need to place God on a pedestal -- not people. People will always have the tendency to fail. God never will.
Dealing with the hurt and confusion of our kids when someone they admire fails is tough. But it is an opportunity for us to help them understand that choices have consequences. And it's also an opportunity for us to teach them about the power of grace and forgiveness.