I seem to always be behind a car with a “My Kid Is an Honor Student at Blah-Blah-Blah School” sticker.
Is that wrong? No.
Should we celebrate and let our kids know we are proud of them? Yes.
Is it any different than a sticker with a dancer, lacrosse player, football player, cheerleader, or martial artist? Well, that depends.
It’s not really about the sticker.
It’s about knowing our audience. It’s okay to share our joys, delights, pride, and happiness about our kids’ achievements, successes, and talents with close friends and family who also enjoy seeing our children thrive, but I firmly believe we need to be sensitive with whom we share those things.
I have honors students in my house, too. I fully understand the enthusiasm. I occasionally post about one of my kids’ successes or achievements on my private wall of social media. I also enjoy reading about the amazing talents among my extended family and friends. It’s fun to follow that. I also love seeing people rise above struggles, challenges, and handicaps. I’m not at all condemning us for encouraging our kids, celebrating, or even being happy for them.
The following scenarios are fictional and do not reflect my not-at-all-perfect life. They are hypothetical and are not based on real people or situations in my life. But I think it’s helpful to drive home a point. I hope you can hang in there with me…
I don’t want to sit next to the mom whose kid is having trouble reading anything at all in fifth grade and talk about how my fifth grader blows through seven long novels a week at an eighth grade level…
That mom doesn’t need to hear it right then.
I don’t want to brag about a big scholarly achievement award my kid received…
When the parent next to me has a kid who was lucky to make it to the end of the school year because academics are a huge struggle. That parent doesn’t benefit from my particular parent pride.
Maybe I shouldn’t talk about how so many kids like my kid and that my kid is invited to every party under the sun…
When the mom running into me at the grocery store is regularly taking her kid to a social skills group and begging God that he learns how to interact with others without spitting on them.
I might not want to mention how Sally Ann is the model student that teachers sit the difficult kids with…
When the dad talking to me at the karate studio has a kid with extreme ADHD who is constantly being corrected at school.
It could be that I don’t want to go into great detail about my kid’s amazing artistic talents…
When despite all of the occupational therapy over the years, another mom’s kid has significant fine motor skill delays and is still drawing stick figures in 2nd grade.
Maybe it’s not the time to discuss how my kid got citizen of the year…
When a friend’s kid is constantly getting detentions at school.
Perhaps it’s best not to go on and on about how “in love with life” my 18 year old is, how everything is working out beautifully for her future…
When the neighbor’s kid can’t stop cutting herself.
This goes beyond our children, really.
I might not want to go on and on about my birth story, how tough it was, what a trooper I am, 48 hours later to still be laboring with a smile…
When the woman next to me had five miscarriages in the past four years.
It might be best not to declare how awesome my husband is, how he delights me with love notes and takes time off to whisk me away somewhere romantic for the weekend…
When the discouraged woman next to me at a picnic feels so alone and stuck in her marriage.
I really don’t need to go on and on about the amazing weeklong vacation I’m getting without the kids…
When a dear friend is on her last nerve with no break in sight, a traveling husband, and no local grandparents or regular babysitting support.
I really don’t need to talk about the awesome promotion I just got…
When the lady next to me at the football game doesn’t know if her electricity will be turned off this month, or just her phone service, and she’s not sure her job will last past the end of the month.
I don’t need to talk about the awesome time I just had golfing with my dad…
When a close friend just lost hers, and the grief is still deeply profound.
I can be enthused about my child’s amazing improved health over the years…
But maybe I don’t need to go on and on about it in front of the mom still waiting to see if her five year old’s cancer counts went down.
It might not be prudent to discuss my brand-new, huge house…
With the family next to me who just got their fourth notice of not having made rent.
And the list goes on, but you get the idea.
When we don’t know our audience or don’t care enough to think about the context of sharing our joy, we often unintentionally send this message: “My happiness is more important than your pain.”
I don’t think we mean to do this. I catch myself doing this, and it hurts me when I do. And certainly, we aren’t always going to know someone else’s story next to us when we want to share something.
But maybe if we don’t know a person well enough to know his/her hidden pain (or at least some of the surface pain), we don’t need to share it with him/her.
Maybe that person is not our best audience for sharing moments like these.
Or maybe we need to think more about where someone needs to be encouraged than our personal need to share something exciting or even have our own ego stroked. If our “coming out of pain into joy” story can bring hope and encouragement, by all means, we should share it!
In my opinion, it all comes down to whether or not what we share is self-serving.
Is it our fault someone else’s circumstance is not working out as well as our own? No, I’m not saying that. I just think we need to be more aware. For every awesome moment in our lives, there is pain somewhere else. When we are raw and hurting in a place of struggle in our lives, what we most need at that moment is for someone to hear our hurting hearts—not railroad over us with a personal list of accomplishments.
I challenge us all to ask ourselves, myself included:
- Whom does this piece of news benefit?
- Does it edify anyone but myself?
- Am I sharing something with people who will celebrate with me, like family and good friends, or am I striking up a conversation about myself and my successes with someone next to me whom I haven’t invested in, and I don’t know his/her story?
- Is this a good time to share?
- Will it encourage this person in his/her struggle, or will it cause more shame, sadness, comparison?
1 Thessalonians 5:11-15, Apostle Paul speaking
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else [emphasis mine].
Galatians 6:2-10, Apostle Paul speaking
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers [emphasis mine].
*This blog has been shared at Pick Your Pin Tuesdays.