Looking Good


Does this sound familiar? You’re eight years old and your mother is sitting across the table from you. “What is the matter with you? Why didn’t you brush your hair before dinner? Your face is dirty, too.”

“I washed my hands,” you say, as you shrink down into your seat, embarrassed because it’s the first time your new friend, Alice, has come for dinner. She’s the girl in class who’s so popular you can’t believe she said yes. And now, a never-ending stream of corrections from Mom. Alice will never come back. You may not have words for your feelings, but if you did, you’d think:  “Why can’t Mom get off my case? I’m so humiliated.”

Mom, on the other hand, is unaware of her daughter’s feelings. She’s noticing the cut of this new little girl’s clothes, the style of her hair, and the big name family she comes from.  She’s so focused on her goal of getting her daughter to measure up, she doesn’t notice her methods are cutting her daughter’s heart.

While Mom’s intent may be somewhat constructive, her impact is destructive. Will Mom realize what she’s doing in time to repair the damage? Is this a pattern of expecting her children to be something they’re not in order to look good to the outside world? Is she aware of what she’s doing?

Probably no, yes, and no. I heard lots of stories like this in my years as a psychotherapist. Stories of families who wanted to look good rather than be good. Families who ridiculed their children in front of their peers. Families who pointed out deficiencies in public.

Most families are guilty of wanting to look good to the watching world. What looks good to the watching God is when we treat our children with respect and correct them privately and don’t humiliate them in front of their friends. God is more concerned about us measuring up to his parenting standards than our children’s brushed hair at the dinner table.

Father, we want to be good, not just look good. If we’ve been raised in a family who primarily wanted to look good, please heal our hearts. Thank you that you do not humiliate us. Let us sense your accepting love today, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.