To Tell Or Not To Tell?

Dear Christian Counselor,

I was a pretty wild kid back in the ’80’s, but now I’m a pretty conservative parent.  I’m wondering if I should tell my own kids about some of the things I did in hopes that they will learn from my mistakes?

Secrets of a Misspent Youth


Dear Secrets:

There are different schools of thought on this perennial question.  If you ask adolescents, they will generally say they want their parents to be open about their past mistakes and that they would actually take those lessons to heart.  Personally, I don’t advise it.  One of the developmental characteristics of adolescence is the inability to appropriately weigh consequences.  Even when a teen knows that a certain desirable action (such as bungee jumping) has undesirable consequences (a grisly death), he or she lacks the mature judgment necessary to weigh the potential cost (blood and pain) against the momentary emotional reward (exhilarating free fall).  BungeeTherefore, your well-meant revelation about your own bungee-jumping past seems more likely to give your teen new ideas and permission to try them than to relieve them of the burden of testing the boundaries you already blasted.  A recent study bears this out in particular reference to drug use.

It might be gracefully appropriate to tell your son or daughter about your own mistakes AFTER they’ve made the same ones.  But I wouldn’t do that either, if you have younger children.  They WILL find out.  Your teenager needs a wise and even a somewhat mysterious limit-setter more than he or she needs another messed-up friend.

Jealousy: a Monster in Your Relationship

Iconic Emotions: Jealous

Photo credit: Samit Roy

Dear Christian Counselor:

I have been married for almost 6 yrs. My husband loves God, but he tends to get extremely jealous. He has asked me not to talk to men at my work, one in particular, but my position requires me to interact with ALL the staff equally. This man has never disrespected me or made any inappropriate comments. He knows I love my husband and am a faithful wife. This became such an issue that I lied to my husband and told him that I was no longer speaking to that coworker since it always ended up in an argument. He recently found out and is saying that he can no longer trust me. He wants me to change the way I dress (I dress modestly) and to not be so “giggly.” He drills me everyday to see if I have talked to that coworker, asks me if anyone has hit on me and checks my phone.  When I try to confront him about it, he tells me that wives should submit to their husbands. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Please help me. What should I do?

Confused and Controlled


Dear Confused and Controlled:

I have to be honest and say that I feel for both of you. Your husband is dealing with a case of fear which borders on phobia. It makes me wonder if there is anything in his past which initiated this anxiety. It’s not personal; it’s about things going on inside him. But it does impact you, and there’s little you can do to solve it by yourself. That’s frustrating.

I’d advise you to attack this problem on two fronts. First, learn what you can from your husband. The way men perceive women is very different from the way women perceive women. There may be a kernel of truth in your husband’s fears. Where could you honestly tone down your wardrobe and your personality with other men? Is there an older woman you respect whose objective advice you might request? Marriage is all about making compromises, and, frankly, it is more important to love your husband well than it is to make an attractive impression on others. However, I am not suggesting that you do this out of lifeless duty but out of life-giving love. If you see it as some sort of punishment, you will resent it. But if you CHOOSE to give, prayerfully, to Jesus and your mate, it will bring you real joy.

Second, I’d encourage you to make an appointment with an experienced Christian counselor. If your husband will go with you, all the better. If he will not, go anyway. You need to find your worth and beauty in Christ despite your husband’s jealousy, and he needs to work on this unreasonable anxiety. You both need to learn better communication skills so that you can stay on the same team even when you are struggling. It would be wonderful if he could learn to say, “Honey, I know this is hard for you to hear, but I am really struggling with jealousy right now.” And it would be equally wonderful if you could reply, “Thank you for telling me that. I’m so sorry. Let’s ask God what each of us can do to make this better.”


Related articles:

Eliminating Jealousy in Your Marriage (Crosswalk)
Jealousy in Relationships (FaithVillage)

Can a Christian Be Depressed?

Dear Christian Counselor:

Can a Christian be both depressed and victorious? I have struggled with mild depression most of my adult life, enough that it’s hard to stay on task, and a disagreement can ruin a day or two. I certainly don’t feel victorious but I do continue to pursue the things of God with Bible study, prayer and fellowship. Am I sinning when I am depressed? Doesn’t it show signs of unbelief?

Praying for Strength and Relief


Dear Praying:

Every year millions of people struggle with various forms of depression. Recently, we learned that Mother Theresa considered herself to be a “saint of darkness” due to seasons of depression. Scripture shows us that even biblical characters experienced this mood disorder. Elijah, the prophet, felt so defeated that he wanted to die. Psalm 88 describes a deep depression in which the author asked if God had rejected him. Paul mentions an ache that will not leave him. Depression is real, and it happens to Christians.

Depression can happen for a variety of reasons. It can be biological, or it may occur following life changes. It can happen after childbirth or because there are years of undealt-with emotions in a person’s life. We live in a fallen world, and it affects us all differently. Sometimes, that means depression.

Depression becomes a spiritual issue when it leads us to ask questions like, “Has God forgotten me?” or “Am I truly a believer?” Christians work very hard to ‘just pray better’ or ‘memorize more verses’ to make depression go away. Christians tend to feel guilty and withdraw from others, compounding depression’s difficulties since we need the presence of caring people in our healing process.

Most people can see growth through depression with the help of counseling and the support of community. Sometimes medicine can help. A good counselor will encourage you to explore causes of depression. They will also give you space to wrestle honestly with the spiritual aspects of your mood. In God’s mysterious providence, our problems often thrust us into increased dependence on God. He is, after all, a Man acquainted with sorrows (Is. 53:3).

Jessica


Biblical Counselors on Depression (CCEF podcast)
Is Depression a Sin? (Focus on the Family)