My son went to live with his uncle and, three months later, I found out that he had stolen money from their store. We resolved the situation between the two parties calmly, but the news spread to all the family. Now no one wants anything to do with us, and we are estranged from the family. I have felt depressed and very hurt by the situation.

My son has repaid only part of what he owes, but now says that he won’t give them any more because they keep talking badly about him anyway…. He says that he didn’t steal as much as they say he did; but I tell him that taking even one peso is stealing all the same, so he should pay what they say he owes. What advice do you have for me?

Dear Friend,

Clearly your son’s uncle was doing him a favor by taking him in. But to repay his uncle’s kindness, your son robbed from him. That was not only stealing, but also betrayal and a complete lack of consideration for the feelings of others. Your son probably justified his actions by telling himself that his uncle has plenty and can afford to lose a little.

Now your son is justifying not paying the money back because the members of the family are talking badly about him. So even though your son is a thief and a liar, he wants to make their guilt appear to be more significant than his own. He doesn’t seem to care about what is right, or about your relationship with your family. He thinks only of himself.

Consequently, have a talk with your son and tell him that you will no longer enable him to live without facing the logical consequences of his actions. If he chooses not to pay back his uncle, you will not provide a home for him any longer and he will have to move out. To make sure that the money gets paid, tell him that you will collect the money each week and you will make sure that it gets delivered. If there is a week when he doesn’t have the money to pay, he will have to move out immediately. If he refuses to move out, you will change the locks on the doors so that he can’t get in. Make sure he understands what you are going to do before you do it. Then if he refuses to pay, your actions will not be a surprise. However, do not make this threat unless you are willing to go through with it.

Your words have communicated that you do not approve of your son’s actions, but your words have been empty. You must show him, and your family, that you will not support him when he chooses to do wrong. He will probably scream horrible insults and may say that he hates you, and it will break your heart. But just as you gave him consequences for wrong actions when he was a child, he must face the consequences of his wrong actions now. If he doesn’t, he will continue to steal, and the consequences will only get worse.

You cannot prevent your son from suffering the logical consequences of his actions. However, he does not have to suffer the eternal consequences, and neither do any of the rest of us. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He did it to pay the penalty for all the sin that all of us have committed. There was a thief on the cross next to Him. That thief recognized that he was being punished for his own actions, but that Christ had not done anything wrong. So the thief cried out to Christ and asked for His help. Christ had compassion on him just as He has compassion on your son and on all the rest of us. We have all sinned, but each one of us has the same opportunity to ask God in the name of His Son Jesus Christ for His forgiveness and to then be spared of the eternal consequences of our sins. Unfortunately, you can’t ask God to forgive your son’s sins, for he must do that for himself. But you can be an example for him to follow. When you develop a personal relationship with God, He will give you the wisdom you need to be able to help your son get his life on the right track.

We wish you well,