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Parenting–and the Shame of Falling Short: Esther Liu

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
May 23, 2024 5:15 am

Parenting–and the Shame of Falling Short: Esther Liu

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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May 23, 2024 5:15 am

Could shame be shaping your parenting? Esther Liu shares how shame impacts relationships, parenting, and self-worth. From cultural influences to personal struggles, she explores real-life examples of how shame can affect our parenting styles. Ready to break free from this cycle?

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Connect with Esther Liu and catch more of her thoughts at Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, and on Instagram @_estheryliu.

...and grab Esther Liu's book, Shame: Being Known and Loved in our shop.

Intrigued by today's episode? Think deeper about Shame by listening to Missing Something?

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Hey, before we get started, we've got a question for you. How can we pray for you? I love this question because we talk about a lot of serious things here on Family Life Today, and those details about our families, they often need our prayers. So can we pray for you?

We're serious. Yeah, so here's how you can let us know. Text FLT plus your prayer request to 80542 to let us know, and it would be our privilege to pray for you. That's text FLT plus your prayer request to 80542. We want to pray for you. There's actually someone else other than my parents that I'm called to please, and that is good for me to live a life of obedience unto.

It's not just because my parents say so, but it's because my Creator and my Savior has called me into this abundant life that I'm missing out on when I go astray. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson.

You can find us at This is Family Life Today. So we started a conversation yesterday about shame, and we discovered that I carry some shame, and we have two women in the room that have no shame. I don't know. I think that Esther and I revealed that we both have shame.

I would guess that most of us have shame, whether we admit it or not, but there's things in most of us that have been hard to deal with. So we have Esther Liu back with us. Esther, we're so happy that you're here with us.

Thank you for having me. She's counseling us is what's happening. Basically, that is what's happening.

I think she's counseling everybody that's listening. And one of the things we didn't talk about yesterday that I've often heard, and I saw it in your devotional, is the difference between shame and guilt. Guilt could be, I made a mistake.

Is this true? Shame is, I am a mistake. Is that sort of close to what shame feels like?

Yeah, I think so. I think that's a good way, a good starting point to distinguish between guilt and shame. Guilt is, I did something wrong.

It's action, behavior-oriented. Shame takes it a step further. It's not like I just did something wrong. You can do something wrong, but still feel like an okay, good person, good Christian, etc., but making a mistake. Shame takes it a step further and says, I am wrong.

There's something wrong with me. And it becomes an identity statement rather than an action, behavior, sentiment. And yeah, even what we talked about yesterday, I think dovetails well with this delineation between guilt and shame. There are some of us, we didn't do anything wrong, but wrong was done against us. And yet we still carry that weight of shame for being sinned against and treated poorly. If we were rejected and bullied as children, we don't necessarily own that as if I did something wrong. That's guilt. But shame is, what is it about me that people keep picking on me?

Why am I so small and scrawny or what is it about me that makes me teasable and makes people gang up on me? And so there are so many instances where shame enters in, where you didn't really do anything wrong, but you still feel like something is wrong with you. Esther, is there any time that shame can be a good thing? And I say that... Like a healthy shame? Yeah, a healthy kind of shame.

What do you think? That is a great question. So for me, coming from an Asian American culture, that is very honor and shame-based. There are a lot of scholars who will propose the value of shame, and that might take a bit to unpack, but there is something about a collective awareness. So with shame, it's very community-based. It's very, what are other people saying about me?

What are the eyes that matter? Who are the people who are approving and disapproving of me? Shame is actually a communal type of experience. When you are rejected for doing something wrong, when you're accepted for doing what is honorable and good, there's that collective sense to shame and a relational sense to it. When you are doing something that is truly wrong and grievous, and there are people who can call you into account for that, there's something potentially restorative in that. There's something potentially like what my parents, for them to be disappointed and for them to voice that they wish that I had done better in this situation, there's something good about that. There's something good about calling right for right and wrong for wrong, and when you've gone astray, to be called forth into something better. And shame can function that way. And so for an Asian culture that is very collectivistic, that means we care a lot about what other people think.

We care a lot about honoring the people around us and taking care of the people around us. If we're not doing our due diligence to uphold the harmony and the sense of well-being in our community, maybe there is something good about feeling the sting of that and saying I want to go a different way. In a different direction. I think what's so tricky about that is it's very easy for that to cross a line from something that could be restorative and hopefully corrective to something that is very paralyzing and something that is very destructive.

Or performance-oriented. Yeah. Well, I mean, that's my question even as we talked yesterday about shame. A lot of parents are listening, and they may have little children or teenagers. We've got adult children now, but the last thing they want is to create shame in their kids. And so there's some different parenting philosophies. One would be don't ever shame them. Don't ever tell them they're wrong. Grace, grace, grace.

Love, love, love. Because if you tell them they're wrong or they're doing something wrong, that's going to become inherent in them and they're going to walk around with shame. So help us as parents. Like, I don't want to create shame in my child. How do we parent in a way that is healthy for our kids?

Yeah. You know, there are these three questions that are mentioned in the book, but I have talked about as well with many others who have found it to be helpful. It's that sense of whose eyes matter, what standards are you living by, and who makes it all okay when you fail. And I feel like those three questions are very helpful in orienting us to a more constructive direction when it comes to parenting or marriage, et cetera. So to the whose eyes matters, there's a way of parenting that can highlight, like, it's my eyes that matter. As your mother, as your mom, as your dad, my eyes, my approval matters the most, and that's what you should live for. And so I'm going to parent in a way that highlights you should care everything about how I think of you, and I should be the one that, you know, you're trying to impress or please, et cetera. What would that dialogue look like as the parent to the child, if that's the approach?

Yeah. I imagine, you know, even the way that we discipline, where it's like, you know, because I said so. Like, I'm, you know, I'm the one who matters.

I'm the authority here. Yeah, it's my voice, it's my way, versus, I think, the sense of whose eyes matters the most is God's. And actually, as parents, there are going to be times where we get it wrong, too. And so at the end of the day, when we parent in a way that says God's eyes matter the most, and he has these standards that are good, so this is dovetailing into the second question, it reframes it a bit. It puts parents and children at almost a playing field where both are recognizing their neediness. The parents are recognizing, I don't have it all together.

I'm not always going to get it right. I'm going to need forgiveness from you. And the children are going to learn, like, there's actually someone else other than my parents that I am called to please. And that is good for me to live a life of obedience unto. And it's not just because my parents say so, but it's because my Creator and my Savior has called me into this abundant life that I'm missing out on when I go astray. And it's out of His love for us, you're saying, too.

What's the second question? Yeah, what standards do you live by? What standards do you live by? And so for parents, I think that is a very good point of self-reflection. Because as parents, we do have a lot of goals and ambitions and hopes for our children.

And some of them maybe are more conformed to our Christian values, and some maybe not so much. I imagine, you know, my temptation when I become a parent is going to be over-esteeming academic achievement. Because that was the world that I was raised in, was school matters and good grades matter. And that's just been so indoctrinated in me that I feel like, oh, I'm going to need to be aware of what standards I'm imposing on my children.

Because I want what's good for them, and I want what's best for them, and I think that this would be what's best. But it's important to kind of delineate between what are those standards that are of me, and maybe even of the world and of the culture that I'm embedded in, and how much of those standards are actually God's standards for us. Because He actually has very different standards from us that sometimes are countercultural. He doesn't make everyone straight-A students. He doesn't make everyone socially charismatic. He doesn't make everyone the certain weight or the certain height or the certain physique.

And there's a reason for that. And yet, as parents, the temptation can be having a certain view of what the ideal child growing into an adult could be. And sometimes that does conform to God's standards, and sometimes that doesn't as much. And so it's valuable as parents to consider what are the standards that I'm asking my children to live by, and how does that reflect God's standards or not. Yeah, I think the trick is, it takes wisdom and maturity for a parent to differentiate between God's eyes and my eyes. Because it's really easy to say to your child, especially a toddler, Hey, my eyes are God's eyes.

They're the same. And it takes maturity to go, No, not always. Like you said, my eyes may be straight A's. Anything A- is even, it's got to be an A. And then you have to be able to step up and go, God's not straight A's. For some kids, because they wouldn't be trying, it would be, because they're so gifted. That means they're not even applying themselves. But others, no matter what they do, they're not getting a straight A. They may get a B or a C+, and that's the best they can do. And to lay into them and say you have to make this standard is going to cause a lot of shame, right? Because they're going to think I never measured up, even though I did the best I actually could.

Couldn't have studied more, couldn't have done more, and I got a B+. Well, I think that family pressure too, our oldest son was more quiet, more introverted. And our family just had this idea that every successful child would be outgoing, charismatic personality. And I can remember my mom saying, well, he's interesting, isn't he? And I felt like, what? It was in a negative way.

Yeah, it's just how she said it. It's like, oh, he hasn't met the standard of our family. And what happened was it shaped my view of this son of like, oh, he's a little broken. And I remember, and this is where we need Jesus with our kids and our families.

We need to go to him. And I remember crying out to him like, Lord, who is this boy that you've made? And I remember feeling like as I'm reading scripture and I'm watching him, I felt like God was so delighted in who he was and how he made him. And he was celebrating continually, not the things that were broken or a little messed up, but he's like, isn't he amazing? And now I'm seeing my child through God's eyes and I'm thinking, ah, I see what you mean, God.

Yes, he is delightful in every way. And so I think that's really important no matter what that we're always going before the father of saying, God, how do you see us? How do you see our kids?

How do you see my spouse? Because if we have the standard of the world or our family telling us one thing, and it's maybe not true the way God says or sees, that can be dangerous for a family and a child and a person. And it's so hard, too.

My heart goes out to parents. It's such a high calling. And there's nothing easy about, you know, if you have been raised or if this is all you know. And this is the world and the framework that you live in. How hard is it to, you know, take a step back and see certain things of like, wow, maybe that isn't the only way to be delighted in child of God. Maybe this way that, you know, it's all that I've known and all that all the voices around me have said. It takes so much awareness, self-awareness, self-reflection and just grace, like Spirit Rock grace to be able to kind of see through some of those things.

And so there's nothing easy about being able to identify those areas. And yet I trust that there are so many parents who want to do right by God and want to do right by their kids in this calling as parents. And it's just a worthwhile endeavor to take those steps back occasionally and say, you know, what is it, God, that you want for my child and how am I fostering and cultivating that? And what are ways that I'm asking my child to conform to a certain image and a certain package that maybe you didn't even intend for my child to fit into? What was that third question?

We didn't get to the third one. Yeah, the third question, which I think is maybe the most important, insightful, is who makes it all okay when you fail? And so as parents, there's a way in which we can raise our children as if you did something wrong.

There are times where they are going to mess up. There are going to be times where they violate God's standards. You can have the right eyes, God's eyes. You can live before the right eyes. You can live by the right standards, which are God's standards set for us, as we see in Scripture.

And our children are still going to fail and not measure up. So this third question is really getting at who makes it all okay. And I think as parents, there's a unique opportunity to continue to point to Christ, to be the one who makes it all okay.

It's not going to be you. It's not going to be, you know, maybe there are apologies to be made. There's forgiveness that needs to be asked for. There are actions to right the wrongs that were committed. But ultimately, the one who makes it all okay is not ourselves, but is Christ. And how does our parenting reflect that when our children fall short?

How can we point to a Savior who's greater than themselves when they fall short? What does that look like for you, Esther? Like you've shared that you've gone through some shame. You've had to deal with it. How have you healed from it?

What's that look like? Yeah, I think my journey of shame maybe maps on well to the three questions that were just presented. Lived my entire life in some way implicitly before the eyes of my mom. I wanted to please her. I saw my older brother was pleasing to her. And so I was trying to become like my older brother. But all of that was fueled by I want my mom to love me the way that she does my brother. And so he was academically successful.

He had a certain personality. I love that you mentioned the extrovert introvert thing because I think that's something I still wrestle with as an introvert in a world that really prizes and really values and esteems extroverts. But yeah, it was an incredibly insightful moment to realize how much my mom had a weight on my sense of self. I wasn't living every day of my life saying I need to please my mom. I want my mom to love me. But when I really looked deep down, I was like, I'm living out of this framework that I need to please her. The standards I felt like would earn my mom's love, whatever that would be.

Some that I just had mentioned earlier academically, personality wise, etc. And who makes it all okay? That continues to be a journey where I realize I've tried so much of my life to make myself okay and make myself better. There's a reason why New Year's is my favorite holiday, which sounds strange, but it is my favorite holiday because it's all about resolutions and doing better. And there's still a part of me that is still so fixated on improving myself and getting myself up to gear.

And New Year's is just a beautiful time to reflect on those things and make resolutions. But I still feel like there's this temptation that I need to save myself. When I fail, when I mess up, I'm the one that needs to do better next time. And if I bomb this interview, I'm going to go home and I'm going to be like, all right, time to work on my interview skills and figure this out.

Or never do interviews again. But either way, I feel like I'm living, I still am tempted to live my life as if it's a self-salvation project. That I'm responsible for myself. I need to fix myself.

I need to get into shape. I need to figure that out. And when I read scripture, and years now of reading scripture, again and again, the story of the Bible is you can't fix yourself. You can't save yourself. And you were never meant to. And it's just this invitation and this revelation page after page after page from Genesis all the way to Revelation.

It's you can't make this work on your own and you don't have to. And so all of those invitations throughout scripture from Jesus, like, come to me. Like the invitation, like, come to me.

Those always get to me because then I realize, like, I'm not alone. I'm not this orphan that's left to fend for herself to make her life work. I'm loved by a God and I'm cared for by a God who promises that he will bring to completion the good work that he has begun, Philippians 1.6. And I don't have to save myself.

I don't have to bear that weight. There's someone who is patient and will see me through and will walk with me every step of the way. And that's just been one of the most life-giving realizations that, honestly, I need to relearn every single day. I came into this interview feeling like I need to perform. Just very honestly, like, last night I was a ball of anxiety.

I was like, I don't have what it takes to do this. Well, you're in good company because either do we. But it's just a sense that it was another opportunity for me to discover, like, it's not all on you, Esther.

You live your life as if it's all on you and it's not and it doesn't have to be. And I'm here and I will help you and I'm committed to seeing you through. So I hope what listeners are hearing and what you guys are hearing here is I'm still so much a work in progress. Aren't we all? And, yeah. We are. I can remember. I'm like, if what you're saying and what you're talking about is so thank you for sharing that, like, the truth of it.

It's beautiful. I remember when we were, I was 29 when we started speaking for the Family Life Weekend to Remember Conference. We'd been married 10 years.

I got married when I was 19. The first day I'm at this conference, this woman came up who's probably in her 50s and she sees me and she goes, I am so disappointed that you're the speaker for the women. Oh, my goodness. That's terrible. I mean, everything, I'm already feeling that. I'm already feeling like, what do I have to say? These would have been married years.

I've been married 10 years. I know nothing. And I remember looking at her saying, I'm sad that it's me, too. I think she's like, what? You're sad? I'm like, honestly, like, you could probably sit down with me and share so much more. But the night before I was speaking, I'm in the shower on my knees with the water just pouring down on me. And I said, Lord, I've got nothing.

What do I have? I've got nothing to give these women. I've got nothing.

I can't do this. I don't even know why I'm here. And it's that same reassurance of, but I'm with you. I'm with you. I'm with you. I'm with you. I'm like, well, good thing because I got nothing.

And so that's been where I have wrestled. Like, I've got nothing, God. I think a lot of us feel like, Dave may not feel bad, but I have felt that for years. I've got nothing. Well, I wonder, you know, how many people, including us, when you lay your head on a pillow at night, the day's done. You're sort of reflecting on how the day went and obviously thinking about tomorrow. How many of us have a sense of rest, a sense of calm? Like, I nailed it today.

Like a sense of healthy identity. Like, yeah, there's things that didn't go the way I wanted today. I didn't accomplish everything I hoped for. I failed at this, failed at that, but I did this and I did that. Anyway, a sense of, it's a good day and tomorrow is going to be a good day as well. Rather than, man, I blew it, I'm not worth anything.

You know what I mean? Like, even when we look in a mirror, do we look in and go, image of God. I'm a child of God. I am a child. I'm a son of a daughter.

Fearfully and wonderfully made. And yeah, I didn't do everything I hoped for today, but I'm still, I have a sense of healthy identity that I'm worthy. Rather than, ugh, look at me. Don't have any hair. I'm overweight. And again, there's some of that that can motivate us to do better, but a sense of healthy identity.

How many people have that? I feel like we're getting there though. I mean, we're old. But there's a feeling of freedom. Like, of course I don't have everything I need to do this perfectly, but He is with me and He sets us free.

Isn't it good that Jesus came to set the captive free? And so when I look at my kids, I don't want them to become who they think I want them to be. I want them to become exactly who God created them to be. And I think as we relay that to our kids and our spouse, I have put so much pressure on Dave to become this man that I thought he should be. Instead of, man, I'm so glad you are the person that God made you to be because I need that person in my life. And together we can reflect, even brokenly, but because we're in Christ, the image of God back to the world.

Yeah. You know, I was thinking about the story that you were telling before speaking and the refrain of I've got nothing. And the Lord being so compassionate to meet you there. And yeah, I also was thinking, like, while you felt like you had nothing, you did. You had something.

And I'm sure you shared it and I'm sure you were a blessing to the people around you. And it's just, it's the phenomenon of treasure in jars of clay. It's like we're a jar of clay, but there's treasure in there and it's worth speaking of and it's worth testifying to. But even what you were talking about in terms of, like, being pleased with the children and wanting them to be who God wants them to be, not necessarily who you want them to be or your spouse.

There's a way in which the differences that are there, it's the same thing. It's like you might look at your spouse and be like, that's nothing. Like, I want this instead. And what you have is either not good, displeasing or nothing. And yet there is something there, that there's something good in your spouse. There's something good in your children that can be seen and found, enjoyed, appreciated.

That, again, might not conform to what we want, but it's still so good. And everyone has that something because of Christ. And part of the shame journey is being able to recognize that and live into that.

Because so many people who struggle with shame disqualify themselves, say, I've got nothing. And so I'm not going to show up. I'm not going to try.

I'm not going to do this. Or they try to the point of, like you were saying yesterday, the striving. And like, I don't feel like I have what it takes.

So I'm going to work extra, extra, extra hard and push myself to the brink of burnout and exhaustion. And yet there is this voice that says, like, even though you feel like you've got nothing, there's something there. And I want you to shine that light for other people to see. There's a work that I want to do in and through you in the ways that I've uniquely gifted, created and molded you. And it's just a matter of beholding that and living into that.

I love it. But it's so easier to see that for someone else. Isn't it though? That's what you say. Like, I've got nothing. I'm like, you have something. I know. I think that about you too. Like, look at you, girl. You know, it's, you're right. It's so easy to see it in other people.

And yet God sees it in us. I love, I love this devotional. I think it'd be really cool if you have teenagers. This would be awesome to go through. And I love that you have scripture at the beginning and you have reflective questions and then an action point at the end. And they are really good even for a spouse to ask each other to go through these questions. I have a feeling we're going through this. Yes!

Because it's really good. That should be great. That'd be great. I'm Shelby Abbott and you've been listening to David Ann Wilson with Esther Liu on Family Life Today. Esther has been bringing some truth today and yesterday and she'll be with us tomorrow as well. And she's written a book called Shame, Being Known and Loved. This book really offers a roadmap for those kind of wrestling with shame and helps really guide you toward redemption through God's grace. And it gives you some really practical wisdom as well.

So if you want to dive deeper into this topic, really, as David and Wilson were talking about, go through it maybe with your spouse or even with one of your kids. You can get your copy of Esther's book called Shame by going online to or you can find it in our show notes. Or just give us a call at 800-358-6329. And that number is 800-F as in Family, L as in Life and then the word Today.

Just request your copy of Esther Liu's book Shame. Now this is the month of May. In fact, we're kind of winding down here on the month of May, but it's a good month for us here at Family Life Today because every gift that you give to the ministry of Family Life Today will be doubled all month long, dollar for dollar, up to $550,000. Yes, thanks to some generous partners who have given to the ministry of Family Life, they're making it possible for every gift given to the ministry to be doubled up to $550,000. So not only when you give, let's say you go online, you give $50 a month, it actually becomes $100 a month. Not only does that happen for the benefit of you and the ministry here, we're going to send you a copy of Chris and Elizabeth McKinney's book called Neighborhoods Reimagined as our thank you to you. So you get that gift and in addition to that, when you become a monthly partner, you get to participate in our new online community and be part of the conversation here at Family Life, including the opportunity to check out a live Facebook event with the Wilsons and myself on June the 5th.

Again, you can head over to, click on the donate now button at the top of the page and become a monthly partner with us and have every gift that you give doubled up to $550,000. And tomorrow, Esther Liu is back one more time to explore generational shame, cultural influences and strategies for healing when you feel like you're broken beyond repair. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of David Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-23 07:31:09 / 2024-05-23 07:43:24 / 12

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