Don’t hide your parenting failures

October 1, 2018

Birthing, adoption choices, feeding, training, educating, keeping our tempers in check when everyone’s having a bad day. The temptation to act like we have it together and know what we’re doing is present at all stages of life, but I’ve personally experienced it most as a parent. I’m a mom, and I feel pressure to be good at it. From even before we hold our children in our arms, moms can feel pressure from the outside world, and especially from ourselves, to do things the best way possible.

Pretending we’re doing better than we actually are can be motivated by pride. We want to be seen as wise, competent, excellent parents. Our human nature comes with an innate desire for approval, and our pride compels us to believe we can do it all and do it best.

But it’s not just pride that fuels our pretense. I’ve realized my desire for approval from others comes from my own feelings of inadequacy. What if I don’t do it right? What if I’m not enough for my kids? What if they get sick or injured? What if they don’t aren’t doing well in school?

Well-meaning friends and public figures will tell us we can do it—our efforts are enough. Or we might judge our own performance by worse things we see in others. As in, “Yes, my kid eats Cheetos and other processed foods, but at least I don’t let him watch YouTube all day like my neighbor.” We grasp at anything that tells us we’re doing okay, or at least better than the next mom.

But the truth is, our efforts aren’t enough. And our comparisons can never alleviate our parenting guilt and sense of inadequacy.

When we embrace our weakness and inadequacy, we have to look outside ourselves for help. When we are weak, our God is strong

Truthfully, we are inadequate. So why pretend we’re not?

When we embrace our weakness and inadequacy, we have to look outside ourselves for help. When we are weak, our God is strong. When we see ourselves rightly—as weak vessels in need of supernatural strength and grace—we can stop pretending, stop comparing, and start clinging daily to the One who gives us everything we need for life and godliness. Instead of excusing our sin and shortcomings, we can take them to the cross where they’ve already been covered, and we can rejoice and live in forgiveness.

Allowing others to see our failures

Not only that, but when we stop pretending, we allow others to see our failures, pointing them to God’s grace and strength. When we ask friends to pray we’ll have wisdom in a certain situation, we demonstrate to them that: 1) We don’t have all the answers, and 2) God (not Google) gives the wisdom we need.

When we’re close enough to other believers, they’re bound to see our parenting failures. And that should be freeing. Not that we go on sinning that grace may abound, but that even parents walking with Christ will fail, sin, and need forgiveness. When we don’t get close enough to see a family’s struggles, we assume Christian parents are supposed to be perfect. But when a family lets us in to see the daily ups and downs, we’re freed from the illusion of perfection. Instead of expecting ourselves to be perfect, parents or caretakers or simply perfect people, we learn how to rightly deal with our sin and failure.

Embracing our need for a Savior

In the 2017 film Wonder Woman, actress Gal Gadot portrays the female superhero as an outsider coming from an island paradise to rescue mankind at war. But she is not one of us. She is a deity—part Amazonian and part Greek goddess—and she stands in judgment on humanity and our lack of love and kindness toward one another. Rather than being cold and aloof, she chooses to love mankind and to serve the world with her protection. But she makes an interesting statement at the end of the film:

I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. And I learned that inside every one of the, there will always be both—a choice each must make for themselves. Something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know that only love can truly save the world. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be.

She’s right that there is a lot of darkness in the world. And love is the only thing that can save us. But while Wonder Woman is not the heroine who can save us from this darkness, there is someone who can. What we need is not a hero who retains their powers and stands apart from us. We need a hero who gave up all his privileges to truly become one of us—not a god-dressed-as-human but God-made-flesh. Our hope is in the One who made us in his image, and then took on our image to rescue us from ourselves. It’s his love alone that can save us.

Denying our sin and struggles, pretending we’ve got this parenting thing down—these acts and attitudes hurt us, rather than help us, and they hurt those around us. Because Jesus came and took on flesh, he understands our struggles and our temptations. In love, he took our sin upon himself. When we deny we have a problem, we deny ourselves the joy of his forgiveness and grace.

But when we embrace his grace, and invite others to do the same, we create a community like the one John describes in 1 John 1:7-9:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

It can be awkward to take the first step toward opening up, setting our pretense aside and letting others see us truly. But the path to fellowship flows through walking honestly in the light, knowing we’re justified and forgiven because our Savior is faithful and just—he is our advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1), and he paid the price for our freedom that we might walk in it.

Check out Catherine’s new book, Real: The Surprising Secret to Deeper Relationships. And join the ERLC in Dallas on October 11-13 for The Cross-Shaped Family. This conference is designed to equip families to see that all of our family stories are shaped by the ultimate story of our lives, the gospel. Speakers include Russell Moore, Jen Wilkin, Matt Chandler, Eric Mason, Ray Ortlund, Beth Moore, Jamie Ivey, and many more. Register today to attend!

Catherine Parks

Catherine Parks writes and lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, two children, and a cute dog named Ollie. She's the author of Empowered and Strong, collections of biographies for middle-grade readers. You can find more of her writing at cathparks.com Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24