Lee received a book awhile back that discussed pain from a Christian physician’s perspective. In it, the author told of a child who could literally feel no pain. If she cut herself, she wouldn’t feel it. If she was running on a twisted foot, she couldn’t feel it. She would bite her fingers until they were bleeding to get her own way, knowing her parents could not bear to see her mutilating herself. His point throughout the book is that pain is good. It has a purpose. If we stub a toe, we stay off it until it heals. We pull our hands away from the fire because it hurts when we get too close. We humans don’t like pain, and wish we could live without it, but really, God can teach us a great deal from pain.
Guilt is another concept that is misunderstood. Secular people (including professionals) work off of the premise that all guilt is bad and should be eradicated. But when we look at the Bible, guilt has a purpose. Feeling guilty about being lazy can motivate me to get to work! Feeling guilty about sin can drive me to a Savior. So often we try to get rid of the guilt without determining whether the guilt is true or false.
Any childrearing book that attempts to eliminate all discomfort or guilt from a child’s life is contrary to what we see in the Bible. God is clear that no chastening is pleasant. (Hebrews 12:5-11). We see throughout the Bible the value of the law. The apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans carefully explains the role of guilt in a person’s life. In the following passage, Paul explains one purpose of guilt, although it is not named as such.
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. Romans 3:19
Yes, it is possible to put inappropriate discomfort and inappropriate (or false) guilt on a child, but my point here is to establish that giving discomfort and showing guilt in themselves are not unbiblical and inappropriate tools in a parent’s toolbox.
Update: The link to the book The Gift of Pain has been fixed.