Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Family Lessons From Whitney, Michael and All The Rest

The other day a friend told a young person that Whitney Houston had died and the teen replied, "Who's that?" How quickly we forget how young our kids are, how old we are and how fleeting even fame is. But like so many who die young, famous and not so famous, the stories are usually tragic ones. Whitney's was no exception.

Certainly one of the greatest vocalists of all time, she was not that long ago at the top of the entertainment world with #1 hits, unforgettable Super Bowl appearances and favorite movies. Now she's gone with so much of her legacy unknown and certainly tainted by rumors, destructive lifestyle choices and harmful associations.

So what do we as parents do with events like this in our homes? Some of our kids probably don't care and like the teen I mentioned earlier may not even know of some of the Whitney's in our world. Should we just chalk her, Michael Jackson. Amy Winehouse and all the others up to just being larger-than-life icons or do their stories provide teachable moments for us?

I think the latter.

Whether our children say anything or not about the aberrant actions of those in the limelight they do take notice at some point even if someone like a Whitney was too old to be on their personal radar. They see others in their list of favorites who self-destruct and we would be wise to help them process that.

So where do we start?

First, don't lecture. Discuss. This is not the time to have a long sit-down I'm going to make sure YOU never do what they did speech. Instead, have a conversation. Ask them questions like, So what do you think would make a person want to live that way? Why do you suppose all their money and fame wasn't enough for them.  Of course the depth of your questions will depend upon the age of your kids but talk with them not just to them.

Second, don't water down the tough stuff. Talk about the real issues, at least the ones you know about. It's tempting to speculate and suggest that they were probably on drugs or something when you don't know that to be the case. But talk openly and honestly about what you do know and if hard subjects are part of the discussion talk about them age appropriately of course. And be sure to help your kids begin to know what to do when they are confronted with similar temptations and choices.

Third, show compassion for hurting people. It's easy to send the message that these people are destroying our culture and deserve what they got in dying or going to jail or losing everything.  I'm pretty sure Jesus would not have responded that way. He was the friend to the outcast, the adulterer and the tax collector. He still spoke truth and challenged people to a better way, but He had compassion on the multitudes.  We must model the same.

As the adage suggests, there but for the grace of God go I.

Yes, there will be more Whitney and Michael stories. But we dare not look the other way and think they don't matter. They do. For lots of reasons.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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