What is it about stories that draws us in? Something about them captivates us.
Jesus himself told so many stories in the Bible to convey messages, so last summer at the pool, I decided to do the same with my seven-year-old daughter.
But I shared a story of my own imperfection. At times, I can be hesitant to reveal my shortcomings to my children, thinking I might derail them if they see my cracks and rust. But that day at the pool, I tasted the sweetness in being vulnerable with my daughter.
It all started when she climbed out of the pool and stomped over to me. She curled up on the lounge chair and buried her head in it. When I asked what was wrong … silence. After some time, my daughter told me her friend acted rude.
It’s a difficult thing to forgive imperfections in others, even when we are full of them.
My daughter’s friend walked over to us and I initiated a forgiveness conversation between them. They each shared why they were hurt and forgave one another. My daughter’s friend jumped back into the pool, but my daughter retreated to her same position on the lounge chair, pride and anger covering her.
I avoided a lecture and instead shared a story of my own imperfection as a little girl:
My best friend and I had played a game of tetherball and I was stubbornly convinced I won. She thought I played unfairly and wanted to replay the game. I didn’t give in. My friend said if I didn’t apologize and replay it, she didn’t want to be friends. I held that ball tight and made my choice. That day I chose pride and lost my best friend.
I told my daughter that I put the need to be right before my friend, and I wish I hadn’t. I wish I had shown grace, said I was sorry, and moved on. Before another word left my mouth, my daughter sprang up and jumped into the pool, joining her friend. Their giggles stretched a mile away.
Maybe Jesus shared so many stories in the Bible because he knew they would resonate with us – that they would have the power to move our hearts.
When we left the pool, my daughter actually said, “Mommy you were so right. I’m so glad we worked it out.” It was funny she said I was “so right” because I never told her what to do. I simply shared a story, and she figured out what to do from my mistake.
It’s easy for me to think I need to put on a façade for my children that I have it all together by only sharing my successes. But Melissa Trevathan and Sissy Goff, authors and counselors, helped me see more clearly from their book, Raising Girls:
“How do you help your child live through her failures? Talk about your own. Live in a household that models forgiveness for mistakes. And finally, don’t treat failure as a taboo subject. Don’t ignore the missed basket in basketball. Talk about it. And then move on. Take her to get ice cream after her failures and successes. Help her lighten up and see that there’s much about her that is good and enjoyable even when she makes mistakes.”
That day, my daughter was able to forgive and be forgiven after hearing one of my own stories of failure. That story taught her more about forgiveness than a lecture ever could have. Sharing stories of my own imperfections has also helped her accept parts of herself and others that are imperfect and in need of grace.
Now when I dive into a lecture, I try to stop myself and share a story instead, because parenting with stories is powerful.