I remember the night clearly. I was a giving a presentation on adolescent depression and suicide to about thirty plus parents. I had been rattling off grim statistics and anecdotal horror stories for some thirty minutes, when I suddenly noticed their faces. It was like being hit by a bowling ball in the gut, and it took my breath away.
Suddenly, all I saw were Mommies and Daddies who looked so weary and worried and hopeless. Here I was, another supposed expert, seemingly doing my very best to overwhelm them. Why? What was the point? What was the purpose behind making these good people feel as though they would never ever be enough? Why was I doing this to them? Stealing their peace of mind, and rapping them over the head with the myriad ways their cherished and adored children might come to ruin?
Well, that night I stopped. I really did. I came to the conclusion that I would address real teen issues, like depression or suicidal ideation, but only if I balanced it off with a heavy dose of genuine hope. I had come to the conclusion that these were good parents. These good folks, with few exceptions, would do almost anything for their beloved children. These mothers and fathers got up each day and poured everything they had into being there and doing for their kids. They needed encouragement and appreciation and respect, not some scolding for not being perfect parents.
That night I made a clear and confident decision. Though I lived in a culture obsessed with bad news and the need to use scare tactics to get people’s attention, I was no longer going to play that stupid game. I knew in my bones that fear was nothing more than expecting the worst, and using fear to gain power over people’s hearts and minds, was a brutally unfair tactic in the “how to be important” game.
I also knew that faith was expecting the best, and that it was not a matter of religion or doctrine or dogma. Faith is simply what matters to you most of all. For these good people, it was their children which had brought them here on a Wednesday night, probably after a long day at work, and more chores to do when they got home. These good Moms and Dads were here simply to try and be an even better parent, more awake to the issues of adolescence, more in tune with the pressure of being a teen, and even in touch with their kid’s very souls. These were good enough parents -- not just good enough, but way more than good enough.
Since that night, this has been the primary focus of my ministry and my writing. Seeking to help parents be good to themselves, so that they might enjoy being parents, and more important, enjoy their children. Our modern lives have become so harried and hassled, hellish in haste and expectation, that we barely have time to simply enjoy what is most precious to us – our very own kids. What do our children need? I suspect it is to know they are truly enjoyed. Joy is directly linked to hope, and hope is the greatest need of all for the modern child.
These days we are daily told in overt and covert ways, that we are never enough. We are not bright enough, sexy enough, talented enough, tough enough, or ambitious enough. We are not good enough sons or daughters, brothers or sisters, friends or neighbors, and we certainly fail in the parenting category. At least we are made to believe we always fall short. We are just not equipped to help our kids be successful and get ahead.
Well, the truth is we are equipped to help our kids become satisfied and significant. We can teach them about goodness; which the American version of the good life knows nothing about. We can show them how to be good people, adults who are committed to kindness, compassion, mercy, respect, forgiving, and yes, love. We can teach our kids about what truly matters, and what will last a lifetime and beyond. We can offer our kids insight and wisdom about what it means to lead a truly full life – a life full of making difference, by making someone else’s day.
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.