The writers of Sherlock Holmes understand the power of knowledge and that one who knows you has leverage over you. In a recent episode of the BBC version of Sherlock, a new villain emerges. If you have watched or read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories you know that villains abound in every episode. Most of them are murderers or have committed physical crimes. But this last one may be the most dangerous of all. His modus operandi? Leverage on his victims through knowledge. His mind was a vault of knowledge that he used to mentally blackmail and torture his victims. “I’m not a killer” was his line. Just an innocent man with knowledge about a person that if leaked would ruin that person’s life as they knew it.
I didn’t think much about this story after viewing it. Afterall it’s just a show. Another mystery/crime show. I love the characters and have always loved a good mystery. Guess it was growing up reading my dads’ Agatha Christie books and watching Columbo. However, as I sat studying God’s Word this morning and focusing on the message of the Gospel and the profound gift of Grace, I was interestingly struck by the insidiousness of that villain in the last Sherlock episode. In fact, I began to think that of all the villains I’ve seen, his power and desire to use it the way he did may have been the most heinous of all villains.
A NON FICTION VILLAIN
Further, I contend that it was really a depiction of Satan, the vilest of all evil we know. What is it about Satan that really impacts us the most? We have no record or knowledge that he actually kills anyone. He “prowls around looking for who to devour” the Bible tells us. But, how does he do it? You know how he does it. It’s his MO. He starts off with his main strategy of deception in Genesis by telling Eve that God certainly didn’t mean what He said about her dying if she ate of the fruit. He used his knowledge of temptation and the human condition, God’s goodness and the war that exists between the two. He has knowledge about you, understands your tendencies and then uses them against you to try to convince you that God couldn’t possibly love you in your condition. He leverages his keen awareness of what you’ve done in the past and throws that at you continually until you are finally convinced (untruthfully) that you are what he says you are and not who God says you are. He’s the villain in the Sherlock episode I saw.
The 4 Words That KILL Our Kids
So what does all that have to do with the 4 most powerful words that do damage to our children? Let me show you how these 4 words can do as much damage to our children as the villain in Sherlock or Satan does to us through the same manner.
“I told you so”
Those are the four words that do so much damage to our children. They play into the minds of our children the same way the villain in the Sherlock episode played into the minds of his victims and the same way Satan uses words to try to (too often successfully) defeat us.
When we tell our children (or anyone actually) “I told you so” especially in regard to an indiscretion they caused we are in essence telling them, “I knew you would screw up”. “I knew you didn’t have the capability of doing the right thing”. “I never really had any faith that you could do it, don’t you remember? I TOLD YOU SO”. Those are the words of someone who wields the power of knowledge at the wrong time to get his way and pump up his leverage. “I knew better than you”. “Now you’ll see that I’m smarter and now you will think twice about trying anything again unless you seek out my advice.” These are all thoughts that hold our children captive when we pull out the “I told you so” card. Now, hear me–I’m not saying that you don’t teach and train up your children in truth. And, I’m not saying that there aren’t consequences for actions they take that step outside your teaching and causes them harm. Consequences are real. But, when our response to those consequences (that they have to live with) is, “I told you so” you’ve shut off any communication and safe harbor for them to run to.
Dads are supposed to be places where kids can come and share anything safely. We are the ones that our kids can return to when they’ve made a mess of their lives (or just had a tough day)–see the prodigal son story in the Bible. Those 4 words shut off that avenue for our children. When we use that phrase we are no longer a safe harbor. We are just one more reminder to them that they don’t measure up. “They screwed up again”. “They always screw up and never meet our expectations”. That’s what they hear when we say, “I told you so”. Like the villain in Sherlock or Satan in the garden our message to them is, “I’ve got the goods on you and I know better what you are really like. If you screw up, I’ll share this with whoever needs to hear it to condemn you”. In the case of Sherlock, this power wielded by the villain created many who wanted to kill him because they couldn’t let him share that information. Satan uses it to try to keep us from fully understanding what God did for us on the Cross and that we are no longer condemned for our former actions and any sin that Christ paid for on the cross. As fathers we also have the ability to either hold power over our children or create freedom and safety.
So, dad, instead of those 4 Words, why not try these 4:
“I’ll Always Love You”