A grim look on her face, green nail polish, and a hoodie pulled over her head told me the young lady sitting in my office was into some serious rebellion. And she wasn’t there by choice. A teacher asked that I talk to her because her grades were less than stellar.
I leaned back in my chair and met her gaze. “Do you know why I sent for you?”
“Probably because I have ‘potential’ I’m not using.
”I’m not sure what you mean. I figure not many high school kids use all their potential.”
She pushed a strand of hair out of her eyes. “Well, I guess I’m using less than most.”
“Do you know why?”
“Whatever I did, it still wouldn’t be enough.” She sat up straighter as if to deliver her next words with defiance. “So why even try?”
“Sounds like you’ve set some pretty high standards for yourself.”
“Not me—my parents. You know Jake, don’t you?”
“You mean your brother? I don’t know him well. He has a different counselor.”
She laughed. “Well, he never gets called in for not using his potential. He’s Mister Perfect: football, basketball, student council, top grades. How’d you like to follow a brother like Jake?”
I nodded. “That’d be hard.” I picked up a folder. “I have your file here.” I opened it to the place where yearly grades were recorded.
She leaned forward to look at the record. “Wow, straight A’s in 7th grade.”
“So what happened in 8th grade?”
“I remember exactly. Dad sat me down and told me Jake was taking advanced classes and had made the varsity football team. He said he expected me to make the family proud, too. I was so mad—at him and at Jake. And at my mom for not sticking up for me.”
“So you decided to be famous another way?”
“You could say that. It was a way to get back at my dad. I showed him. He’s done nothing but worry for three years now. I will not give him the pleasure of pride in me.”
We talked for a few more minutes and she agreed to see me again—this time voluntarily.
Where the Rebellion Began
The father in the story above used hurtful words when he compared his eight-grade daughter to her older brother. The anger his words generated grew in his daughter’s heart until she found a way to hurt back. Never mind that she was hurting herself. She knew she was getting revenge in a way that stressed her parents.
Unforgiveness Can Lead to Rebellion or Perfectionism
While unforgiveness and anger can lead to perfectionism, it can also manifest as rebellion. Either reaction hurts the entire family. The answer, of course, is forgiveness. In the story above, it would take involvement of the entire family before they decided the young lady could be herself and not her brother’s shadow.
In my next post, I will describe four facts we need to understand about forgiveness. From there, we will be ready to help our child who is harboring unforgiveness.