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This is a very important post, in my opinion, from Megan Hill at Christianity Today‘s Her.meneutics blog on an issue many adoptive parents do not seem to have thought through in advance.

Here’s the main point: “In this digital age, information lasts forever, and adoptive parents are increasingly, permanently, and publicly telling stories that are not theirs to tell.” She explores why:

Partly, I suppose we tell them because people ask. Even mere acquaintances frequently ask me questions about my children’s place of birth, their health prior to adoption, and the financial status of their birthparents. Constantly deflecting nosiness takes more energy than many parents have.

And, maybe we tell our children’s stories because we believe strongly in the cause of adoption and want to promote it to others. Maybe, selfishly, we tell them because we adoptive parents are the heroes of those stories. Or because we believe that our child’s identity can be found in his experiences, rather than in his union with Christ.

But maybe we just haven’t thought much about it. One mom told me, “I wish someone had told me [at the beginning] to keep every last detail quiet. . . I feel that there are a lot of people who know that [my daughter] was abandoned, and I wish that I had not even shared.”

I think the thoughtless telling of our children’s stories stems from forgetting something that all parents are prone to forget: my child is my neighbor. Yes, I am his parent—with all the authority and responsibility that entails. Of course. But my child is not simply my possession or an extension of myself. He is a human being, made in the image of God, with a soul that will never die. And his story does not belong to me.

You can read the whole thing here.

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20 thoughts on “Not Your Story to Tell: A Gentle Plea to Parents Who Have Adopted”

  1. Jason says:

    Although I agree with much of what it says above, I think it is important to acknowledge that it is my story too. We don’t refrain from sharing details about any of our children–biological or adopted. I love my daughter and her story and I am eager to share it. I am eager to share how this little bundle of joy from the other side of the globe has totally changed my life. I am eager to share how her coming into our family has enriched my understanding of God’s adopting love. So, although I agree with the cautions raised, I think we need to be careful not to diminish the joy of adoption and the importance of shared stories.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      I think your desire here is great, Jason. I think the author’s point is the story of these little lives before they came into our homes. It seems to me people are way to quick to ask, and to divulge, background information that goes way beyond what is necessary.

  2. Yes, we should be careful about what we write. But I also agree with Jason- it is our story too. We are honest with our kids about their story. It is part of how we talk together about how God put our family together.
    We frame it in the best way possible- that their birth parents loved them enough to know they couldn’t care for them.
    It just strikes me as overkill- wanting everyone to be ultra-private because some people don’t use discretion.

  3. Victor Nas says:

    As an adoptive parent I certainly can appreciate the caution raised by this article. We don’t want private and sometimes unsavory details of our children’s lives paraded about simply because someone asks a question (honestly or just because they are nosey). In our situation (adopting from China)those difficult details are often already common knowledge as many are aware of why these precious little ones became available for adoption in the first place. This facts often causes the questions (and comments) to be more pointed and direct. But, in all of this we have the opportunity to testify to the grace of our Lord who turned very unfortunate circumstances into a picture of His adoption of us through Christ. Yeah, this is our child’s story but she has and will have to continue to hold it knowing that many already have notions as to what the story involves.

  4. Kyle says:

    Does the logic of this extend beyond adopted children? Are Social Justice organizations wrong to share the stories of those in need because they are not our stories to tell?

  5. I think if you polled most adoptive parents out there and adoptive kids who were raised in gospel centered homes you’d find that most would really disagree with this article. I know I do. I think she really could have written something far more worth while and talk about HOW to tell their stories… both to the world and to their child!! I’m SO grateful that I get to tell so much of a bigger story than the one I was planning on writing because God wrote it much differently and much more grander!! And that DEFINITELY includes my four adopted kids stories… starting from the moment they were conceived! I think in this age of the narrative this is VERY important! Great thought provoking post though… I might just have to write my own post about how to tell the story well! :)

    1. Wesley says:

      Casey –
      i think the point of the article was this:
      imagine if the Sunday before you came to a new church, a friend or family member got up and shared your testimony with all the sordid details with the church. How comfortable would you then be coming to that church knowing your story was shared. Even if there was nothing particularly embarrassing in your testimony, i think you’d agree that that is your story to tell, even if that other person was intimately involved in your story. It’s not about the gospel then, but about who’s story it is to tell. Does that make sense?

      1. I kinda understand where she’s coming from… I just think she could have written/said/educated a better way. Like HOW to tell the story… not DONT share their story! And I think your illustration really doesn’t go very far in comparing. I just don’t think it’s the same thing…. not to mention that if what God’s done in our lives often goes before us to places and into people’s lives then PRAISE the Lord! I think sometimes we are worried about our “feelings” a little too much and less about training our children and our own minds in what’s best for God’s glory! In the above, if my hope and strength is in Christ and that church loved God’s glory too then I think it would be an amazing opportunity to make much of God in a way that might not have happened otherwise. (This is coming from someone who yes, often her families story goes before her to places! I’m not just saying that.) And I just think SINCE when have we all worried about whose story it is to tell in this day of the internet… this blog is founded on the principle of sharing other’s stories that are out there. (even if they are dead, a child, a parent, etc…) Sure technically they have permission… but it still is doing the thing that this article is mostly against.

  6. Lee Furney says:

    There seems to be a danger in swinging the pendulum in either direction here. Megan Hill’s subtitle, “A call for discretion…” might be something we can unite on more easily. There will be some scenarios that we need to carefully think through the implications of sharing, others where it would be over-cautious to withhold praiseworthy information. A call for discretion should be welcome in helping us to remember to discern the difference between the two. Likewise, a reminder that once the words are out there it is not so easy to change our minds is something we need to keep hearing.

  7. Jerry says:

    As an adoptive parent of a special needs child from a country with significant child welfare issues, I find myself at odds with the article. My daughter’s history is part of who she is, and is part of my history now, too, similarly to my biological children (as someone has mentioned). So I would challenge the presumption that their story is not mine to tell.

    Telling my child’s story is important because (a) the plight of children from her country needs to be told, (b) the grace of God that worked in her circumstances is nothing short of a miracle, and (c) her story changes lives.

  8. Cindy says:

    Adoption is such a controversial and emotional subject. I do not believe there is ever a 100% right or wrong way to go about explaining the process to your friends, family & acquatences. I am an adopted child and my parents were so proud and overjoyed to have a child they never hesitated sharing that I was adopted. However many times I wish I did not have to then explain or correct so many. I understand people don’t try to be cruel with their questions but many times they come off as hurtful or even demeaning of our family. So many times I have to explain why I have no desire to find my birth parents even though I have the highest regard for their decision to place me for adoption. I hate hearing the comment that many make as a compliment that my parents love a child that is not theirs biologically. I also hate defending that I do in fact view my parents as my parents. You may have a right to tell your story but you do need to think about what the child will have to deal with when others start to question them.

  9. JMostek says:

    As i read this article, i can hear the voice of a mother who is frustrated and i’m sure rightly so about how perhaps she has been treated through her adoptions or has perhaps seen others suffer from a lack of discretion in divulging too much information, but i disagree that just because someone’s child is their own person in Christ, that it means we cannot utter anything about their life before they came to be a part of our family or of the Lord’s. Discretion, yes, silence, no. I would argue that adoption is one of the most beautiful pictures of God’s grace we can display to this fallen world. Shame and guilt over where you come from is something as a family you would have to discuss with your child when the time is appropriate, but that shame and guilt from an earthly standpoint should point us even more so to the shame and guilt of our situation in sin before GOD came and chose to adopt us into His family– by grace!! The Gospel truths and lessons to be learned through adoption in my opinion are vital to the church today, and need to be taught, yes, with discreton, but as a means to show the world the truth about all of our backgrounds. I once was lost but now I am found. I once was an enemy, alienated from God, but God, who is rich in mercy made me alive in Christ and transferred me to His kingdom. That truth should be everyone’s business, and parents who understand this must teach it to their children. Otherwise, what i believe may happen is that we cover up their stories in fear of their displeasure, making it harder on our adoptive relationships, but forsaking the testimony of grace and the opportunity to teach our children the greater meaning of adoption to the glory of God, into the eternal covenant community of Christ.

    1. Couldn’t agree more!! Great Comment!

  10. Jim says:

    I could not agree more with the author of this article. As an adopted Dad of two older children from Africa we have made mistakes in handling some of the details of their life prior to being grafted into our family. We have become much more circumspect in sharing the details that we “know” of their prior lives, all while celebrating the glorious Gospel! More than saying that it’s “their” or “my” story, it’s really the Lords. As such, the concept of “who is my neighbor” is helpful in working through the details.

  11. Cedric says:

    She speaks in absolutes when she says, “It’s not your story”. As a father of a daughter who was united to us/brought into our family via adoption as opposed to childbirth, I feel this article further perpetuates a few things that I’ve found challenging at times.

    1. “Adoptive families” vs. Families

    2. As many of have already said but is worth stating again… It is OUR story. It is no less our story than a child that was born to a family is part of their parents story. There is neither complete separation or complete oneness. There is overlap. My daughter is going to have to learn that we share parts of our story just I had to learn with my parents. When my daughter is old enough to understand she will know that she carries my family name and represents ME and her mother when she walks out of the house and not just herself. Just like I was told by my parents.

    3. Not every Christian family that adopts does it because they felt called to do so or because of an adoption movement. Some folks adopt because of this not so little thing called infertility. Infertility by the way involves a great deal of discretion for many of the same reasons. However, it is amazing how many people you discover are struggling with it, and dying for someone to talk to that knows what it’s like. It still requires discretion and wisdom which is more difficult and different than silence. But silence begets nothing.


  12. Cedric says:

    At what point does repeatedly teaching our children (and ourselves) that Jesus is their justification and therefore there is no more condemnation or shame, override whatever has happened to them (as well as what they’ve done to themselves)? We treat our past and the past of others with kiddie gloves, and scarlet letters, as if the gospel really isn’t all that we say it is.

  13. Concerned Reader says:

    The more I articles I read on Her-manutics the more concerned I am with the content. It seems that many of the bloggers there just want to push the boundaries of biblical thought and often come across as having a chip on their shoulder about their personal past with Christianity. I read blog posts on there with a highly skeptical eye anymore.

  14. Lee Dyck says:

    As adoptive parents we have been very open to sharing our story simply because adoption needs to be celebrated and promoted, as it is in scripture from beginning to end, as an expression of our Father’s love. Of course, we need to do so with sensitivity, compassion and understanding but again, this is our story. To be sure, the challenge has always been, as it is for all of us in every good we do, to reflect all praise to God (Matt 5:16). But we certainly are not being “thoughtless” when we tell it and our daughter is not just our “neighbour”, instead by God’s grace and because of adoption, we are her parents. And so, I do believe that this is our story to tell because it is our story, all of us, by grace through faith in Christ!

  15. Greg says:

    I personally am not at all comfortable with the broad-based condemnation of sharing our adoption stories. I believe the power of God’s redemptive purposes is often on display. Why is is bad for our adopted children to know that we view their lives as a testimony of God’s redemptive grace? Perhaps the author is really arguing against a narrower kind of aggrandizement rather than against the basics of sharing another child’s story.

    Think of it this way. The entire book of Ruth tells the story of how a certain child came into existence. There are embarrassing details (such as the Moabite lineage) and some humiliating circumstances relating to the birth of Obed. No one in the story seems bothered that this was “Obed’s story” to tell. They tell the story for its redemptive purposes and, thus, demonstrate how Obed’s life is so miraculously glorious–including the future offspring of Obed (Jessie and David).

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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