There’s a great scene in the fantasy movie “Disney’s The Kid” where a middle-aged man, played by Bruce Willis, meets up with his little boy self. The two of them go to their childhood home where the boy learns the horrific news that his mother will die soon, and his father blames him. The grown-up version of the boy knows that he carried the terrible burden of guilt and shame about his mother’s death for years. He kneels down, looks his little-boy self full in the face, and assures him, “It’s not your fault,” lifting the burden from the little boy before he ever has to carry it. These four words, “It’s not your fault,” are truly one of the most powerful gifts an adult can give a child. This is a powerful truth that children need to hear and they can’t tell themselves; only an adult can give them this “special revelation.”
Children are naturally self-centered and they think everything that happens to them is connected to them and their choices or their character. Of course that’s not true. Stuff just happens, but a child can’t know that. A little girl’s parents divorce and her world falls apart. She thinks, if I had obeyed more, if I were prettier or more talented, my daddy would still be here. She needs for both parents to say, “This is about us. It’s not your fault.”
A beloved grandparent dies. Or a pet dies, and a child blames himself. He needs to be told that it’s not his fault, and no matter what he thought—like not wanting to visit with his grandpa one afternoon—or what he did—like forgetting to feed the cat—he doesn’t have the power to make those kinds of things happen, and it’s not his fault.
My friend’s son has Tourette’s syndrome, and we were talking one day about how to help him handle it. I suggested she make sure he knew he wasn’t responsible for it, and she assured me, “Oh, he already knows that.” But that night, as she was tucking him into bed, she said, “You know this isn’t your fault, don’t you?” His eyes got big and it was like a huge weight rolled off his shoulders. With great relief in his voice, he asked, “It ISN’T???” My friend had thought he already understood, but we can’t ever assume kids own that truth until we give it to them.
And if children don’t know that bad things are not their fault, they can take on guilt that weighs heavily on them for years. Others react by wrapping themselves in shame. For example, when a girl is sexually abused, she feels dirty and broken, like damaged goods. She needs to be told, “It’s not your fault.” Even when those broken little girls are grown-ups, the little girl inside still needs for someone to tell her, “It’s not your fault.”
Has a bad thing—or something a child perceives as bad—happened to a child you know? Give them the gift they can’t give themselves, the truth that will set them free. Tell them it’s not their fault.
©2001 Probe Ministries