Parents, Affirm Your Kids (or They May Become Darth Vader)

Anakin and Obi-Wan

People have been asking an important question for more than 40 years now:

Why did Anakin Skywalker turn to the dark side and become Darth Vader?

For the three of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, go watch the entire Star Wars movie saga (feel free to skip Episode I), and then thank me tomorrow after you’ve paid a huge markup for opening-day Last Jedi tickets on Craigslist now that you’re hooked.

Anyway… The predominant narrative you’ll hear regarding Anakin’s fall to the dark side is that he blamed himself for his wife’s death and allowed that shame to plummet him into fear, hatred, and rage.

I, however, think his spiral into the dark side has roots that go back much further:

What if Anakin Skywalker was lured to the dark side because his unmet need for affirmation and validation left him vulnerable to receiving it from anywhere it was offered?

I’ve come to believe that everyone has a question deep within their soul that they will never cease asking until it is answered: “Am I worthy of love and acceptance?”

When this question isn’t answered with a resounding YES!, they will keep asking the question elsewhere until a yes is found.

We see this in girls whose fathers fail to offer them healthy physical affection. This distancing can often be interpreted as; “I must not be lovable,” leading her to seek affection from someone else (a teenage boy, perhaps) in order to answer her question positively.

We see it in the 30-year-old doctor whose parents chastised him for the single B on his report card rather than praising him for all the A’s. What he hears in his heart is “You’ll never be good enough…” The second anyone comes along who is impressed with who he is (like that nurse he just starting working with—who is most definitely not his wife), he’s a goner—putty in her hands.

Friends, when your soul is parched for affirmation—when your question of “Am I worthy of love and acceptance?” remains unanswered—you become like a man stranded in the vast desert of Tatooine, willing to drink from a bantha dung infested watering hole. Any water is better than no water, you tell yourself…

This was Anakin’s story: He was thirsty enough to drink bantha water.

Anakin, after being taken from his mother at a young age, was mostly raised by the Jedi: a monkish order who believed emotions were dangerous and misleading.

His main father figure, Obi-Wan, was never pleased with him—at least not verbally. No matter how much talent Anakin showed, Obi-Wan always pointed out the areas he needed to improve. There was never a “Great job Ani, I’m proud of you,” or “I know I can trust you to make the right decision because of the man I’ve seen you become.”

All Anakin heard was criticism. By the time Obi-Wan finally told him he loved him, it was too late. Anakin’s heart was hardened and he could no longer receive it. He had found new source of validation—someone who not only saw his potential, but praised him for it (he just happened to be a Dark Lord of the Sith, the future Emperor Palpatine who only had nefarious intentions for Anakin).

Here’s the crazy thing though: Palpatine doesn’t even hide those intentions. He openly admits he wants to train Anakin in the ways of the dark side, but quickly follows it by telling him “The [Jedi] council doesn’t fully appreciate your talents…”

Anakin admits his unmet desire for affirmation, and in doing so receives whole-hearted validation from Palpatine. Suddenly, that whole “dark side” thing doesn’t seem like a big issue anymore. “I’ll slaughter all the younglings as long as you keep telling me I’m loved and accepted.” He looks to Palpatine and proclaims: “I will do whatever you ask…”

This is what happens to the hearts of those who are never affirmed: They become Darth Vader. They turn towards darkness and begin to function more like machines than living, breathing humans with healthy emotions.


Parents, as fun as it may be to dress your kid up as Darth Vader on Halloween, we all know that’s not actually the life you desire for your padowans. So what can you do to help them avoid the lure of the dark side?

For starters, you can treat them differently than the Jedi treated Anakin:

  • Speak words of love and affirmation to your kids—constantly.
  • Tell them specifically what it is about them you enjoy, what you’re proud of, and all the things in them you delight in—Every. Single. Day.
  • Be selective, prayerful, and extremely careful with how and when you offer criticism. Try to resist making it your default response to their inevitable shortcomings.
  • Most importantly, point them toward the only place where they can get their question of love and acceptance answered fully and completely: The Author and Creator of love Himself, God the Father.

After all, it’s one thing for your child to know that their parents (or Jedi Masters) love and accept them, but if you can help them to trust and believe that the Creator of a thousand galaxies—the commander of the angel armies—the One who spoke their entire world into existence—not only delights in them but loves them as much as He loves His own son, Jesus… well then, good luck enticing them with bantha dung-water.

Nothing will be able to compete with the affirmation and validation they receive from knowing who they are in His eyes.

Resources you may find helpful:

Need some practical help on how to affirm your kids (or anyone you walk closely with)? I highly recommend the eBook, Experiencing Affirmation in Your Family. The included worksheets make great dinnertime conversation, and have been a tool we use in our own house regularly.

Curious about all the things God says are true about you? My book, 52 Amazing Things that Became True of You the Moment You Trusted Christ will help you see yourself exactly how your Creator sees you: Worthy, Loved, Accepted, Chosen, Empowered, and so much more!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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