How Open Should I Be with My Parents?
A listener named Rae writes in. “Pastor John, I am a young teenager. A few months ago I got caught up in this book I was reading which had a sexual scene in it which I read. At the time, I was too glued to the book to set it down, even though I knew my mom probably wouldn’t want me to read it. Since then I have not thought about it, because I didn’t really think of it as a sin in my mind because I was confused about whether or not my dad would be okay with it. I don’t struggle with lust, and I don’t think about sex, and haven’t thought about what I read until now.
Now I am wondering if I should tell my parents about it. The reasons I don’t want to are: I have a good relationship with them and they trust me, and I don’t want my freedom taken away because I don’t struggle with this. I don’t want to hurt them or scare them. I don’t want to send my parents into a panic because I don’t struggle with lust or want sex. It’s embarrassing. The reasons that make me think I should tell them: I don’t want to hide things from my parents. I want to have an open, honest relationship with them, since I am commanded so many times in the Bible to treasure their wisdom and honor them. But is it necessary to tell them this to be open and honest? Do I need to confess a sin that I’m not sure if it was a sin? So in the end, my questions for you is should we confess to our parents all our sins, even if they don’t seem to be a big deal and even if we don’t struggle with them anymore?”
First of all, thank you, Rae, for the courage to ask the question and the clarity of laying out the pros and cons of taking this to your parents. My answer to your question is partly influenced by what kind of person I see you being, what kind of young woman you are. So, understand that I am reading into your mind a kind of maturity and balance that is affecting the way I answer.
My answer to you is yes. I think you should talk to your parents about this — and let me give you my reasons, and you can weigh them and see if they are compelling to you.
Seven Reasons to Be Transparent
“Err on the side of candor and honesty and openness with people, including your parents, rather than secrecy.”
1. First, you are clearly burdened by the memory of this scene in your reading and your failure to put the book down and talk to your mom or your dad about it. And the very fact that it concerns you enough to write to us, I think that means it would be good to lay that burden down by talking to mom and dad about it. That will lift it from you. If you look back on the event as a sin, which it sounds like you do, then the Bible tells us to confess our sins to one another, and the promise of healing will come (James 5:16).
2. Here is a second thought. I think you are in a good place right now to speak to your parents, because sex has not made you its slave. The day could come when you get sucked into a kind of difficulty with sexuality that would be way more harmful than just having seen a scene in a book, and then it would be a lot harder to talk to your folks. And so, this seems like a good season, a good time in your life when you can bear witness to them that you are not enslaved by your sexuality. You are not entangled like some have become, and I think that will encourage them rather than put them off.
3. Third, it sounds like you have a good relationship with your folks and that would be a good time to be honest with them, rather than if the relationship would be troubled someday. And it sounds like a relationship of trust, and so I would venture that.
4. The fourth thought I had was, I think it is generally a good thing to err on the side of candor and honesty and openness with people, including our parents, rather than secrecy. I think that gets us in trouble if we keep secrets from people that are close to us. So, that would be another reason I think you should move forward in talking to them.
5. A fifth thing is, I think the upshot of your talking to them will not be to distrust you or to trust you less. I think they will trust you more. At least, surely that was my experience with my children: my sons and my daughter. If they came to me with some confession of something they did, I was way more eager to trust them and believe them than I would have been if something had turned up indirectly and I found that they were keeping something from me. So, I doubt that you will make your parents distrustful of you if you are honest about this.
6. The sixth thing is the Bible says, “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). And trusting your parents is a huge honor to them. I just feel so honored if my children trust me with some difficulty that they are having.
7. And the final thing I would say is, Rae, never, never forget the gospel of Jesus, that he died precisely for this sin that you are concerned about, that it would be forgiven, that no matter what happens about anybody’s response to you and your honesty, Jesus is for you and will give you the help you need and the strength to press on in the path of righteousness. So, I admire your courage and your humility, and I will pray that God would make it good when you talk to your folks.