© Copyright 2011 by Joel R. Hall – All Rights Reserved
I recently read an excellent article on The Huffington Post by Akoshia Yoba entitled “She’s Always Watching: The Impact of Fathers on Daughters’ Self Esteem“. I highly recommend taking the time to read it as she sheds some keen insight onto the topic of a father’s role in forming the body image of his daughters. While her comments in this arena are dead on and should be heeded by every father (and mother for that matter), it was her comments concerning the effects a parent’s infidelity has on children that I found most powerful. My only complaint is that the article did not explore this topic deeply enough.
Coming from a home where I saw the effects of this first hand, I speak with the authority of both a witness and a victim. Additionally, the devastating effects this had on my mother, my siblings, and me, led me to research this topic in far more depth than the average person. So much so, I could write an entire book about the topic, but it’s already been done. Just open your Bible and read about the effect David’s infidelity had upon his children, and their children, etc. Infidelity has devastating effects, not only upon the spouse, but upon the children of that union. Speaking as one that has been there, let me put this very plainly: when you cheat, you aren’t just cheating on your marriage, you are cheating on your family. Further, if you were married in a Christian ceremony, then you are rebelling against God before whom you swore to be faithful.
But this article is not intended to focus on marital fidelity. It’s intended to focus on the more general question of spiritual fidelity. Spiritual fidelity is defined as living your beliefs so completely that you need never speak them out loud for a person familiar with you to know what they are. This is often referred to in the church as being “authentic”. I like that word. It is the opposite of phony. Phony is another word for hypocrite. In this context, authenticity is defined as consistency in word and deed. I have more respect for an atheist that lives his disbelief in God then I do for the most passionate preacher of the Gospel that does not live according to his teachings.
Consistency, or authenticity, matters. Nothing reveals your heart so truly. Living a lie, a.k.a. being phony, strips you of all moral authority, and when it comes to children, it is practically impossible to live a lie without them knowing it. And what is worse, nothing devastates them quite so completely.
As a parent, your children look to you for answers to the deep questions of their hearts: “Why am I here?”, “What is true?”, “Am I important?”, “Am I loved?”, etc. They are a reflection of you to some degree and feel a connection with you that no one else can ever hold so completely. Consequently, your opinions of them aren’t just important – they are EVERYTHING, and nothing reveals your opinions so certainly as your actions.
They watch everything you say and do. Nothing is entirely hidden from them. They may not know the details of all your secrets, but they will certainly know if you have secrets. If they are the apple of your eye and the delight of your heart, they will know it and they will be filled with a deep sense of security and strength. On the other hand, if you are more focused on other things – fame, fortune, addictions – they will know it and will be filled with a deep sense of insecurity and fear and possibly even resentment or anger.
If you feel unhappy in your marriage, they not only will know it, but they will personalize it. You can tell them all you want that it is not about them, but the truth is that it IS about them. Everything in your life is about them, and nothing is more about them than your feelings toward their other parent. The reason for this is simple: they are a product of you and your spouse. Children are the physical manifestation of Genesis 2:24, which reads, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” One flesh. Our children are that one flesh, and just as our children represent a blend of our fleshly traits, they also represent a blend of our personality traits, consequently, for one spouse to reject the other feels to the child as if a part of their own person is being rejected. Obviously, this is an oversimplification of the situation, but it is not completely without merit. How do you think a child feels when one parent criticizes something about the other parent that the child has in common with that parent?
Again, I am not trying to focus on marital fidelity, but when it comes to authenticity in our walk with Christ, few things test us quite so completely as marriage. Marriage is difficult. It requires a level of sacrificial love beyond every other relationship known. Marriage is not a 50/50 proposition. It is a 100/100 proposition. It requires love even when love is not felt. It requires a willingness to examine your own selfishness and seek to allow the Spirit to destroy those strongholds of self that lead you down paths of destructive behavior. And we all have such strongholds.
The Creator calls us to be conformed to Christ, therefore authenticity entails the willingness to die to self, taking on the image of Christ. This is not easy. Our flesh rebels against this. Our minds excel in finding excuses for our selfishness and sin. Unfortunately, we can not have it both ways. We can not claim Christ as savior, while refusing Him the rightful role of Lord. If we are to be authentic, we must lay down our “rights” at the foot of the cross and surrender completely, unabashedly to Him. It is only in surrendering that we begin to take up the power of authenticity.
Few things in human experience are as powerful as encountering an authentic Christian. When Christ reigns in the heart of a believer, there is an obvious congruity between every action and word. This aura of congruity has the effect of engendering a sense of trust in others. When an authentic person says something, you simply know they mean it. You know they are as good as their word. They are trustworthy.
You also know them by their kindness. An authentic Christian serves others humbly and constantly. They are generous, patient, sincere, and compassionate. They are, in short, becoming conformed to the image of Christ.
When it comes to moral authority, they have it in spades. If you see your parent constantly seeking to please God and see that effort resulting in an abiding peace and joy, it changes how you view morality. You realize that morality is not a set of rules to be blindly obeyed in an effort to please God, but instead, morality is the result of living an authentic walk with Christ which transforms you into a loving, Christlike being. This is the only effective way to live a “good” life, for only in the Spirit do we grow into a new creation that has a “good” nature which, over our lifetime, destroys and replaces the sinful nature of our birth.
One of the earmarks of an authentic walk is a humble heart, willing and able to confess the ongoing struggles of the fleshly nature as it fights the work of the Spirit. In a family setting, this means that parents have to be totally honest with their children even to the point of humbly apologizing when they make mistakes in regard to them. This builds respect, since respect is a two way street. I have to be willing to respect my child if I wish for respect in return. Similarly, parents must show respect to one another. In fact, an authentic Christian must show loving respect to everyone. The moment we disrespect another, we cease to conform to Christ.
The source of moral authority is authenticity. Do as I say and not as I do simply does not work. Simply trying to be good on your own power does not work either, since we are all born with a sinful nature. Only in earnestly seeking a relationship with Him do we have any hope of ever being transformed into the Christlike being we were intended to be from the beginning. Only then do we fulfill our purpose. Only then are we authentic, and only then will others want what we have which will automatically steer them away from the ways of the world.
© Copyright 2011 by Joel R. Hall – All Rights Reserved