Over sharing. We all do it—or are at least tempted to do it—every now and then. A kid asks a question in a moment of distractedness, and you give him the full “adult” answer instead of putting the kid filter on it. Or you find yourself in a situation where you have THE perfect personal story to support what you’re trying to teach…but it’s just a liiiiitle too “advanced” for your audience.
But what about when you’re asked a direct question from a child who trusts you to be honest with her? What if the truth paints you in a not so shining light? What if the truth causes your group to doubt that you’re as strong as they thought you were?
A couple years ago, I was having a discussion with my fourth grade girls about forgiveness. We were talking about the differences between asking God for forgiveness and asking others for forgiveness. We had landed on a discussion about how sin separates us from God, driving a wedge in the relationship. I told them we need to ask God’s forgiveness for the wrong things we do, thereby restoring our relationship with Him. I asked the girls to list some things they need consistent forgiveness for—things they do somewhat repetitively. One girl shared that her dad probably needs constant forgiveness for getting angry with other drivers in traffic and saying bad words. Suppressing my laughter, I agreed with her and attempted to focus the conversation on the girls again, instead of their parents. I admitted that I sometimes get angry with other drivers, too, and that I should practice what I preach and ask forgiveness.
And then one of the girls asked me directly if I’d ever flicked anyone off in traffic. Uh…what?! What could I say? The honest answer was “Yes”! In a matter of a few seconds, I went through as many possible outcomes as I could. In an attempt to keep my status as their hero who never does anything wrong, I could lie, say, “No” and then just move on. I could say, “Yes” and try to change the subject as quickly as possible. Or I could say, “Yes” and embrace the opportunity for us all to learn something from the Small Group Leader’s mistake. I decided to go with option C.
From the looks on their faces, their opinions of me were changing—some for the better, some definitely for the worse. So I quickly told the group about a time when I was getting onto the highway and a car came careening around me, honking his horn because apparently I was going too slowly for his liking. He almost hit me, so I honked back and angrily raised that middle finger. I told the girls that I wasn’t proud of what I did, but everyone has moments like those where they let anger get the best of them and determine their actions. The important thing is that we learn from those moments, asking for God’s forgiveness and His help in similar moments later on down the road. (Pun intended.)
Their facial expressions softened, and as the girls started sharing other stories of when forgiveness was necessary, I could tell I chose the right option. I earned more trust with them because I was honest and I created a safe place in which they could share their struggles.
Now let’s hope they didn’t all go home and tell their parents that I flick people off in traffic…