I guess you could say that because of my story, I’m pretty passionate about giving insecurity the boot. Maybe it’s much more so in parenting because I watch how my kids Xerox my values.
And I know how much it’s robbed from me.
My insecurity—for far too long—was a giant, life-sucking Hoover in my marriage. It was as if I’d wrapped a leash around my neck, panting to be led by someone’s opinions. …Even complete strangers.
If you’re asking, “What’s the big deal about a little insecurity?”–maybe I can only tell you what I’ve seen it control–you know, besides my marriage: My body, as I teetered on a ridge of anorexia, seeking control of something in all the opinions that tried to swallow me. My peace of mind. My overcommitted schedule, because I can’t say no. My ability to change, because criticism made me defensive. My friendships, because I couldn’t get to a place of vulnerability; I had to always be superior, or the giver.
Insecure relationships are always trying to fill a gap. They seek a place of steady, secure equilibrium by building up self—building up ego—because they are performance-based. They thrive in a place of superiority, of having something to contribute or admire. (Insecurity’s other alias: pride.) The antidote to insecurity is not, in my mind, “self-esteem”–but humility: Seeing myself exactly as He sees me; no greater, no less.
When I’m insecure, honestly—I can find myself looking to my kids to bridge my own sense of acceptability. But my kids, and their performance or success, are not responsible for my happiness. My kids—and even my “wowzers”-level husband—were simply not designed to fill my God-sized holes. Paul says a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. When insecurity controls me and my decisions…being acceptable is not just what I fear.
It’s what I worship.
Ultimately, my security blooms from my acceptance from God. J.D. Greear writes,
There are only two kinds of religions: those that teach you two obey in order to be accepted; and those that teach that you obey because you are accepted. In every story…from the Bible…God confronts attempts at self-salvation.
When I’m working to be accepted—if not by God, then by anyone—I’m choosing an endless hamster wheel of activity toward a finish line I’ll never reach: unconditional acceptance; value instilled by God.
And sometimes I’m modeling that deeply-seated fear for my kids.
Will my kids feel less-than-acceptable if they’re not well-behaved, popular, smart, talented, wear the right brand of jeans, or are exclaimed over by my peers or their teachers or youth group workers? Insecurity steals my kids’ creativity, confidence, and courage—and their genuineness before God. (My own son’s disability has highlighted this poignantly.) My insecurity creates social chameleons in them–or false little Pharisees, performing to gain their ticket to the inner circle; to gain the admiration, the achievement, the status of “example”—whatever we or they have determined is The Ultimate. But over and over again, I’ve got to remind myself that my kids’ success must never determine their value.
If my kids get the idea they must be x—even if x is “that shiny, well-mannered Christian kid”—then I’m adding to what’s required for them to be accepted by God. I’m saying Jesus isn’t enough. Insecurity in parenting will pickpocket my schedule, my bank account, my relationships, and my peace of mind. But from my kids, it will also steal their ability to realize the fullness of who they are. In its focus on what they earn, it even embezzles their humility—and Godward focus on what they’ve received. It handicaps them by making sure they are who I want them to be (and perhaps fixated on filling the gaps I pass on to them). As a family, it taints our ambition, our giving, our service, emerging from a vacuum of emptiness rather than ample fullness.
I have the power, I’m learning, to shape an environment for my kids of authenticity, where we wrestle through our weaknesses together:
- Asking forgiveness from my kids and sharing openly about my own sin.
- Speaking with a lot of unmerited kindness, gratitude, and humility, so this idea of “What do you have that you have not received?” (I Cor. 4:7) is practically in the water they drink growing up.
- Discerning rather than judging in our conversations.
- Exposing a healthy sense of guilt in them rather than shaming them out of my own sense of inadequacy, fear, and personal shame.
I am so over this thief of my kids and our relationships. Who’s with me?
 Greear, J.D. Breaking the Islam Code. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers (2010), p. 102. Kindle version.