Sexual Character: Values

Our children’s character is founded also upon what they value, and parents are the most important influences in forming those values. The needs for relatedness and significance exist whether we feel them or not. But we all embrace unique sets of values as we grow up. If the needs for relatedness and significance are the final destination, our values are the compass that tells us how to get there. Values tell each of us what helps us in our life quest for relatedness and significance on a moment-to-moment basis. We do not typically try to be loved and significant directly, but we generate values, purposes, or goals as ways to get what we really need.

We Communicate Values in Choices

What you say about our goals or values is important, but you probably express your goals and values most honestly and directly in the choices you make. The father who says he values time with his children but never makes the choices necessary to spend that time with them is speaking clearly about his real values through his actions. People often seem blind to their own values. We know what we ought to value much more intimately than what we truly value.

Parents teach their values to their children most powerfully by the values they as parents live by. Children read parents like a book; our lives tell our children what we deem important and not important. It behooves all of us to do an honest assessment of where our time is going and what this says about our values. Then we have to go the additional step and ask, “Is this what I want to teach my child to value; is this what really matters?”

We Communicate Values in Praise

We also communicate our values in our praise. Do you praise your children for grades they get, or for the skills that they are developing? Do you praise your children for fitting in, for being popular, for going with the flow, or for showing strength, independence, and character even when they are not as accepted by others as they might otherwise have been?

Deliberate Values

We need to think deliberately as Christians about the values we want our children to manifest.

Vibrant faith. A vibrant faith is children’s most fundamental need for the future. Parents shape children to value such a faith by modeling that faith themselves, by talking openly about how important that faith is, and by praising any manifestation of such a faith in their children. As parents we often reminded our own three children, “We really are proud that you are doing well in school (or piano, baseball, friendships, Bible school, etc.), but never forget (and help me to never forget) that the only thing that matters is whether you love God with your whole heart and are following Him in obedience. If you do that, your life will have value. Without that, nothing really matters. God is calling you right now to be a student (pianist, second baseman, etc.), and I think God is happy that you are doing well at that for Him!”

Christian virtue. Next, it is critical to shape children to value Christian virtue. Beyond any particular outcome or achievement, children will be successful and blessed they manifest the vital Christian virtues of love, faith, and hope (1 Corinthians 13) because they have a lively faith in Jesus Christ, The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 includes “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” While this fruit flows from the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life, it also is clearly built upon preexisting human traits and characteristics. Parents can begin to develop these traits in their children. In an era of rampant cynicism and hurtfulness, do you cultivate the trait of gentleness in children? In a time of impulsiveness and licentiousness, do you encourage self-control in children? In an era that demands instant answers and instant success, are you able to teach your children to value patience?

Purity and chastity. Most directly relevant to this book, we must teach our children to value purity and chastity. Do we lead them to commit themselves to such chastity? Do we teach them to value faithfulness to their vows to God and to their future spouses? We should. It’s good in the eye of God for an unmarried person to be a virgin. It’s good to handle oneself with self-control and to have pure motives in relationships. This doesn’t mean it’s bad to feel sexual feelings or to struggle with those feelings. In fact, God wants us to be the sexually alive person God made us to be. To be sexual and pure is God’s intent. Our children’s deep need for relatedness—to God, to a future spouse, and to loving friends—will be most deeply and fully met by living by God’s standard of purity. Whereas the world says that immoral sex is a way to get your love need met, the best evidence suggests that living life by God’s rules is the best way. Chaste people are likely to have more satisfying and stable marriages, and to have better sex lives in their marriages. God’s way is the best way.