"Why We Should Stop Protecting Our Children" by Abby Brundage (CatholicMom.com) Copyright 2008 gemsling via Flickr. All rights reserved.

I recently heard a story about a woman who, in tears, called a friend, saying she felt like she had failed as a mother because her son was in pain due to her divorce. The friend stopped her and said, Hang on. Before you say anything else, tell me three characteristics you'd like your son to have when he becomes a man.

The crying friend answered, I'd like him to be brave, strong and wise.

To which the listening friend responded, I don't know any man who is those things who hasn't gone through some serious pain. So why are you trying to protect him?

I hate seeing my children cry. Unless it’s because they are in trouble with me. Then I wring my hands and laugh in my best villainous cackle, knowing I got through to them. Muah ha ha!

For real, though. I will do everything in my power to help them avoid a trip and fall or getting their feelings hurt, and the thought of them really, truly being in incredible pain makes my stomach turn. When my kids are in pain, I’m in pain. But why do we try to avoid it at all costs? If you look back on the painful moments of your life, did they not build character in you? Didn’t you learn a lesson? Or most importantly, didn’t you grow closer to God?

Still not on board with the idea of seeing your child suffer? I’m not in 100% either, but let me offer you this, or rather, her: Saint Josephine Bakhita.

She was born in Sudan in 1869 and historians believe that sometime in February 1877, Josephine was kidnapped by Arab slave traders. For the next 12 years she would be bought, sold and given away over a dozen times. She spent so much time in captivity that she forgot her original name.

Once she was asked what she would do if she met those who kidnapped and tortured her. Her answer: If I were to meet them, I would kneel and kiss their hands. For if these things had not happened to me, I would not have become a Christian and a religious sister. I would never have come to know Christ my Lord.

Now I'm not proposing that we put our children in physical or emotional harm’s way, but I am suggesting that we stop being afraid of it. I know I've laid in bed before, thinking of the horrible things that might happen to my boys and pleading with God that He not let them suffer. But if (and likely when) the troubles do arise if we help our children embrace them for the opportunities they are, I think they will come out on the other side as winners in two ways.

  1. They will understand how to cooperate with the grace that can only come during a struggle.
  2. They will learn that they don’t have to be afraid of suffering.

Allow St. Josephine to inspire you to kneel and kiss the hands of your own struggles so you can pass that courage and gratitude on to the ones you love.

Copyright 2017 Abby Brundage