character traits for kids

Without Shadows, There is No Depth of Character

I don’t know about you but I want my kiddos to have perfect lives.

You know- the stuff we see on Pinterest:  All the 100 ways to create the perfect childhood, with the best holidays and birthdays, paired with the best education.

We don’t want to be lacking in any area.  As a country, we go into national debt just to make sure the Christmas tree has an overabundance of gifts to open on Christmas morning.  And to top it off, there are stockings filled to the brim with stuffers.

We all want their future to be bright. As parents, we work so incredibly hard for our kids.

And all with the noble intent – we love our kids and want what’s best for them.

But life has a way of throwing curveballs. 

We fall short in so many ways.  And life sometimes hands out just pure sour lemons.

A broken dream. 

A broken heart. 

Deep disappointments.

As I lament about this so-called journey of life, I recently found myself listening to a podcast episode by Emily Freeman where she made a passing comment about darkness:

I am guilty of managing my experience of difficulty so my struggles don’t feel wasted. In this action, I fear I’ve missed sacred times of healing in the darkness because I’ve wanted to rush ahead to the more understandable light. I have bullet-pointed my soul so that things make sense and have regarded God only as my teacher, forgetting he is also my friend. 

– Emily Freeman, episode 14

And it hits me.  

I, too, am guilty of wishing away all the hardship, disappointments, and shadows of life.  I want it to be all light, beautiful, and bright.

But as I see the image of darkness in the shadows of light and the importance of it in art… I begin to understand.

Artwork without shadows has no depth to them.

The reason why the Mona Lisa is forever a marvel to look at is…because of the beautiful interplay of shadows and lights and of darkness and depth.  

And we’ll forever wonder how Leonardo Da Vinci created his masterpiece.

Isn’t it the same with life?

developing character in kids

If it’s all bright, there’s no depth to the painting.  

Life’s shadows and darkness are curveballs and hard.  They make us wonder.  The leave us without answers.  They cannot be packaged neatly into tidy pithy lessons.

But what it does… is that it builds up our need for something much more than this life has to offer.  

It helps our hearts yearn and cry out for the ultimate Creator who loves us to the core of our souls, more than we can ever understand. 

And even when we can’t sense Him, He’s still there.  

There is a sacredness to darkness if we let it be so.

And in the end, it gives us the depth to our character and our souls.

It’s beyond what lessons and curriculum can ever teach in character traits for kids.

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.  -Romans 5:3-4

So perhaps it’s OK that our kids might not win every tournament, get every toy, or be the most popular.  Because somewhere in the shadows, their character is being shaped.

Because even in darkness, God is still present.  Even if we cannot see Him, He is there. 

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  1. Wow! What a deep and beautiful insight you bring to light in this article! You really painted a masterpiece that made me think. Thank you! I’ll remember this beautiful metaphor of light-darkness next time my heart sinks when my kid is dealing with some darkness. Great job!

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