Not Too Late to Reach Your Teens
– Applying the Solutions (Part 2) –

Paul J. Bucknell

Part 3/5 of "Not Too Late to Reach your Teens (Applying the Solutions)" shows why confession clearly must be the first step of restoring teh broken relationship between parents and their teenagers.

Problems (Part 1): Family Problems | Solutions | Problem #1 | Problem #2 | Delinquency
Solutions (Part 2): Barriers | Let’s Solve it! | Confession | Steps of Love | New relationship

(1) Confess your faults
Confession opens the door to our children’s hearts. Remember, if you try to bypass this step, your children will misunderstand your loving efforts. Let us better understand why the confession of our sin is so important. We need to have all the motivation we can get to bring us to openly state our wrongs to others. Pride is one of our biggest enemy.We are all expected to love one another. Confession brings light into an othewise very dark situation.This is not just for Christians nor is it only for the family. This is our God-defined responsibility. God calls us to be holy. This is His design for our lives. Rules only remind us of God’s expectations.

The rules, per-say, do not dictate what we should do but the calling be holy as God is Holy. God’s grace brings fallen man back into the position where he now wants to and is able to love. Without the Spirit of God shining forth God’s love into our hearts, we cannot love one another. Our past pretty much is a picture of life without His love. Whenever we operate on our own, we simply pass on human love with all of its selfishness. It is not true love.
It is hard to confess our faults, especially to our children.  

Sometimes we wrongly think that those in authority should never show their “weak” side. But what does the scriptures state? That we should “confess our sins to one another.” If we have sinned against our children, dare we ignore this instruction? They who have suffered from our harsh words and selfish ways, should they not hear from us that we have gone astray? It is our stubborn refusal to humble ourselves that has unnecessarily brought further pain alienation,and bitterness to our children.

Let us first define the two kinds of wrongs and then explain what we mean by confession. Because we don’t like confession, it is easy to do an inadequate job at it. Let us face up to what needs to be done and do it! The good side is that once it is done, it is completed.
Two Categories of Wrong
There are often two areas that parents fail in. They are two kinds of sin. The first is the sin of commission. The second is the sin of omission. We normally think of only the first kind, but by doing this we bypass some of the best turning points for our lives and families.
Sins of Commission
Sins of commission are easily identifiable, at least some of them. These are things we do but are not suppose to do.  The undesirable actions, attitudes and words which spill over into the lives of other people who are made in the image of God. As you identify sin, you share the pain.They include the things that our conscience witnesses to us that we should not have done. For example, we might end up very angry and saying bad things to our child. Neither of those things (temper and bad words) should have happened, but they did.

When we confess our sins, we must acknowledge the ungodly actions, attitudes and words that we used to communicate. These things always hurt the other person because they have brought unnecessary evil into their lives. Perhaps, the receiver of such offenses can bear them by God’s grace. But this does not excuse the perpetrator of such actions from his guilt. People should not have made those false accusations against Jesus, but they did. Even though He properly bore it, his accusers had grievously sinned against God.

In this case, when we confess our sins, we must remember that we have offended both God and man. Every sin affects our relationship with both God and man. On account of our faith in Jesus (if indeed we are a Christian), we can find forgiveness from our sin before God. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). But how can we find forgiveness with other people especially our children? It is through confession we seek forgiveness.Be thorough. We should identify each specific kind of sin. We might have regularly criticized our child on an average of three times a week over a period of many years. We should acknowledge that in our confession. Although this behavior is totally unacceptable to God, we have done it again and again. Perhaps it was done in foolish ignorance, but it was done just the same. Every time we criticize our child a little poisonous pain is squeezed into his life.

Although it is impossible to know how much pain we have delivered, it is appropriate to share a few words that express our sympathy for the person we hurt with our words. This enables your listener to better know how you now feel about those past sins. We want our confession to touch the emotional aspect of our relationship. Confession is largely an act by which a person seeks forgiveness. This is a legal request, “Please forgive me.” But we also want to stir up right affection toward one another.List each kind of sin, and its projected pain upon the one you hurt. If you have the list handy when you confess your sins, you can double check your list and make sure your confession is complete.

Sometimes when reviewing your list of sins, you come to one that you do not want to confess. We always should confess what we can. If there is a reluctance to confess particular sins, you will need to identify them and come back to them. It is much better to  confess right away. Be careful not to nurture bitterness by thinking how wrong the other person was, a “he deserved it “ attitude. Focus on your own fault.

Often, a person cannot confess a sin because of built up resentment. We should remember both Jesus’ instruction as well as His example. Remember God’s love for us. He forgave us when we were yet sinners. We likewise need to take steps of love, including the demonstration of true care, for others through apologizing. Our apology is not dependent upon the other’s response. It is motivated from love and obedience to God.

If our feelings are getting in the way, we should, for a time, first separate our feelings from the confession. Confession and asking for forgiveness is largely a legal action. It is stating that we have wronged someone and ask for their pardon. We are in debt to them because we have not treated them properly. We can confess our sins even if our feelings are hurt from what they have said or done. We simply say (and say it  out loud) that we have done this and that wrong and ask for forgiveness. It may be hard, perhaps, for the person to forgive us. But in a similar way, that person needs to put his feelings aside and recognize that he does not need to feel like he wants to forgive. A person can just forgive a person for the list of things all with one statement. Feelings will normalize more slowly.
Sins of Omission
The second kind of sin are sins of neglect. They include all the things that we should have done but didn’t.  Sins of omission are all those good and gracious words that we should have said but did not. Or the opportunities to act in a gracious way and did not. We normally forget about the good things that should have happened but did not because of our neglect.

We might have used that time to actually do good to the person and help them. Recognition of this is very important. Instead of just having a bare bones type of confession, the inclusion of what we could have done points us in the right direction for the future. Let me give you an example. A parent might quickly see his crime of hatred toward his child through mean words and the lack of time spent together. This is sin. But it is only part of the story.

We also need to think of all the love, kindness and goodness that the parent did not give the child. All of a sudden we are made aware of the full impact of the crime of hatred. All the love that the child should have received, he did not receive. It also helps us see how our sin has negatively affected our child’s life. We are humbled.
In confession hope is birthed!
Again, not only are we made aware of the evil we have done to our child, but  we also realize how much forgiveness is needed. We see this pattern in both Ephesians and Colossians. We are told to put off some certain sin such as “laying aside falsehood,” but we are also told what we are to do positively, as in this case, “speak truth, each one of you” (Ephesians 4:25).

Admitting what we should do sets us in the right pathway. It identifies what we should have been doing all along. This helps us to choose to do the right thing and helps us to not so quickly replicate the sin. It also helps the other person recognize that the person (parent) plans to change. This is the sign of complete repentance, not merely trying to stop our sinful actions, but also to  proactively do what is proper and pleasing to God.
Summary of Confession
Confession has several parts. We have discussed the most important part so far, difficult and humbling though it be. That is the actual admitting of the wrong we have done. We must not be selective but purposely thorough. In fact, at the end of our list, we might humbly ask (acknowledging that there are things that we don’t even know of) if there  is anything else that we have done wrong. We can imagine the humbling of the soul, but our desire to correct our relationship thrusts us forward. We will not loose esteem in the eyes of our child because we admit our weaknesses. We have already lost their respect. We will only gain it, and if not immediately,  then when we actually change the way we relate to them. Remember, while we are admitting our wrongs, we must not point out the child’s wrongs. Simply acknowledge all your faults and then in summary fashion say. “As a father, I have not been faithful to you or God.”
Gaining forgiveness
After our apology, we must ask our child to forgive us. This is an important and yet often neglected part of confession. We often end with something like, “I shouldn’t have done that” and the child says, “Oh, it doesn’t matter.” But it clearly does matter. The child’s life has been wrecked. We have offended God in heaven. We must never accept the watering down of forgiveness. Instead, thank the person for being so gracious, but insist that you do not deserve forgiveness but would so much desire it.

After that, again ask, “Will you please forgive me?” There are usually two responses. Either the person will say, “Yes.” if so, end the session with thankfulness along with some embrace or culturally acceptable sign of mutual acceptance.

Or the person will refuse. Yes, the child might refuse to forgive you. His or her resentment may be buried so deep that the child does not really believe that you are sincere. Do not be offended. Forgiveness is an act of graciousness. We do not deserve it. It is a special gift of love by the offended. So what do you do?

Tell them that you can understand. Then again admit to the wrong that you have done and speak of the pain that you have no doubt brought to their lives. Once we have confessed our sins, our guilt is removed. We do not need their forgiveness. But it is here that we are trying to express our care to our child and restore our relationship to them. When the child forgives, then he can begin to find freedom from the bitterness.

We know that if they do not forgive us, they will suffer. God expects us to forgive. “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15). It is here, that we have our first chance of showing real genuine care our child. Be patient and understanding.

Deep in your heart show resolve that you want the best for them, which in this case means that they show forgiveness and find the freedom that you have found. I would suggest to do these things, depending on the circumstances.
Tell him that you understand their pain somewhat but wish more than anything that this would be all cleared up. Share your aspirations for a good father-son relationship, but as long as there is something that one person has not yet forgiven, then the relationship will always be held up. See if he is now willing to forgive. If not, don’t press it. Prayerfully proceed.

Instead ask if there is any offense that you have not mentioned? You might have mentioned it or you might not have. Sometimes, they perceive things differently than we do. If they are offended, then more likely than not we have missed  something about the incident.  Confess those sins too.

If he is unwilling to proceed, state your willingness to always talk more about these things. Perhaps you can mention  that at some point in the future you would like to go and do something together like buy an ice cream, go hiking, etc. This shows the genuineness of your heart and hopefully gives further opportunity to clear things up.We should add one note here. When we begin a time of confession, we should not by any means expect or imply that our confession is dependent on the other person’s confession. Don’t even expect him to confess his sins. Right now you are focusing on your own sins.

Confession must be done because you have wronged a person. You need to do it whether your child forgives you or not. If he also confesses his own sins, all the better. This is what we are hoping for, eventually. But sometimes this takes time. People should not take revenge. Revenge belongs to the Lord. Just remember how many years  have passed and how many wrongs have been done before God brought you to this point. Certainly, we can be patient toward others who have suffered from our wrongs.

At this point, we need to quickly proceed into building the parent-child relationship. We need to instruct our child on what the new parent-child relationship will look like. We can think of confession, as the first step of love. Love is honest about our failures and so we confess, but there are many other aspects of love that we need to quickly put in place if they have been lacking. Next =>

Problems (Part 1): Family Problems | Solutions | Problem #1 | Problem #2 | Delinquency

Solutions (Part 2): Barriers | Let’s Solve it! | Confession | Steps of Love | New relationship

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Biblical Foundations for Freedom

Paul J. Bucknell

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