Amanda Woodiel brainstorms ways parents can counteract the culture's lies and teach truth to their children.
It recently occurred to me that my children absorb about a million lies a month from the culture around us. Even though we are largely un-plugged, they still are surrounded by a multitude of half-truths, skewed truths, and out-and-out deceptions. As false as they may be, they can still be seductive, whispering to us and to our children what they have whispered to billions of people before us: “Does God really love you?” and “Wouldn’t it be better if you could decide what is right and wrong?” and “Freedom means doing what you want when you want.”
What was I doing to counteract this incessant barrage of propaganda? Very little. I would teach them the faith and think that I was finished. They “knew” the truth, I thought, even though I had only said it a couple of times.
It’s like I handed them one of those flimsy dollar-store inner tubes while they floated in the midst of a raging sea. Is the truth enough to save their life? Yes, of course. But what I really want is to weave the truth right into their very souls, like one of those life jackets that is sewn right into the swim clothes. I want to make it hard for them to let go of it.
That takes a lot of vigilance about what they are exposed to, a lot of repetition about the truth, and a lot of various and creative ways to say it.
I sat down to brainstorm all of the lies I frequently hear. In about fifteen minutes, I had covered the page from top to bottom. Here’s a sampling of what I wrote:
Lies you Hear
You can do it all
You can do it all ... alone
There is no difference between boys and girls
Moms and dads are interchangeable
I am in control of my life
Freedom means doing what I want when I want and how I want
Suffering is meaningless
Only useful people are valuable
Children are burdens
I have nothing to offer the world
God loves me only generally
There is no hope for my circumstance
Regular people can't ever hear God's voice
My life must look perfect
My feelings are my truest self
Marriage is primarily about self-fulfillment
The life of a mom is lesser
Self-sacrifice should be avoided
I deserve not to be challenged
I should cut anyone out of my life who does not agree with my world view
I can decide what's right for me (there is no objective truth or morality)
It is good stewardship to plan my family, even if that means using artificial methods
Does any of that sound familiar to you?
I bet you they do, and I bet you could add 100 more lies to my list!
I grouped the lies according to theme and then organized them in as coherent a progression as possible. The first and most foundational lie has to do with who we are: our identity. The culture wants to reduce our identity to what we believe or who we are attracted to. That’s not a Christian belief at all! Our identity -- your identity -- is a son or daughter made in the image and likeness of God. Moreover, each person you encounter today, whether s/he is wearing a rainbow or wearing handcuffs -- shares the same identity.
There is no reducing the human person to just one aspect. People aren’t threatening if they have a different world view. No one deserves to be “canceled” for not toeing an ideological line. This is because our identity is so much deeper and foundational than just what we do or what we believe. The truth is that we are sons and daughters of God Himself. It’s too big for our minds to grasp, really, and the easier thing to do is to reduce our identity to something more manageable. This, of course, is exactly what we must not do.
So how do we teach this truth to our children? Often and always. Start by showing what it’s like to be merciful to yourself. Instead of lamenting my bad housekeeping, I laugh and say, “Well, God knows I’m trying. I’m sure glad my identity doesn’t rest on having a perfect-looking house!”
Speak of everybody with the respect they deserve. Do not reduce anyone to “one of those people.” Help others who look different from you and believe differently from you. Introduce the idea to your kids by saying, “God loves that person like he’s the only one He ever made. Let’s see what we can do to help him.”
Print out Bible verses and set them where the kids will see them: their nightstands, the bathroom mirror, the back of the cereal box. Start with something like Genesis 1:27:
God created mankind in His image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.
With smaller children, incorporate it into play. When you are playing with dolls, make up a story where the child gets lost or does something wrong. “Does God still love him?” you ask. “Of course!” you answer. “God loves this little boy because He made him in His image and likeness!”
A very useful exercise you can do with older kids (and with yourself!) is to hand out a piece of paper that says, “I am only valuable if __________________” and give yourselves 10 minutes to write down answers. It’s shocking the number of lies I believe about myself. At some point in my life, I would have filled in the blanks with “skinny, useful, smart, respected, pious, well-behaved, talented, independent” and more. Talk about your lists on a night you can go to confession! We need the healing power of the sacrament to straighten our vision.
Now is the time to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what lies we believe and to offer them to the Father through the saving mediation of the Son. Now is the time to vigorously counteract the lies our children are fed with a repeated articulation of Christian truth. When we do, we will encounter the true experience of freedom: not some narrow, sham version that actually enslaves us to our passions (the kind that the culture peddles) but freedom as it actually is: the freedom to know and choose the good.
Copyright 2021 Amanda Woodiel
Images: Canva Pro; Pixabay (2013)
About the Author
Amanda Woodiel is a Catholic convert, a mother to five children ages 11 to 3, a slipshod housekeeper, an enamored wife, and a “good enough” homeschooler who believes that the circumstances of her life -- both good and bad -- are pregnant with grace. She leads a moms' group at her parish that focuses on simple and meaningful ways to live the liturgical year at home. Amanda blogs at In a Place of Grace.