Raising Children of Peace
Edited by Farley and Betsy Jones
Chapter 1 - Vision for the Family
Ideally, children are raised in the context of intact families, consisting of both husband and wife, father and mother. No doubt the healthier the family, the healthier, the more loving, and the more peaceful the children will be.
The first section of the present volume offers a comprehensive vision for the family. As June Saunders and Andrew Wilson suggest in their article on the four realms of heart, one way to appreciate the process of our lives is by reference to an on-going search for love. As children we seek the love of our parents and progressively thereafter of our siblings, then of our spouses and, coming full circle, of our children when we become parents. Saunders thus addresses comprehensively the purpose of family formation, finding that it is in family experience that the greatest opportunity for the growth and fulfillment of the individual lives.
Ann I. writes from the point of view of an educator, encouraging the educational establishment not to settle for confused definitions of the family which ultimately betray the very young people it is trying to reach; rather, she says, our educational institutions should be promoting the family ideal and encouraging young people to reach for it.
It has been wisely said that the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother-and vice versa. Achieving the quality of unity that blesses a family, however, is no easy task. Peter B. speaks in his article of this ideal and of the kind of consistent investment needed to achieve it.
It is well known that religion offers vital underpinnings for family stability. There is a much higher rate of success in marriages among those with meaningful religious commitments than otherwise. But what can parents do to engender faith in their offspring? This question is addressed by Marie Ang.
The Four Realms of Love in the Family
What would a family of true love look like? What configurations does love take within a family? In this article, we present a view of the four-fold love relationships that should be operating in a healthy family.
The family has been described in many ways: an economic arrangement, the way the human species reproduces and raises its young, the bearer of culture, a holy institution, a legal entity, and all of the above. Utopian social architects have tried to abolish the family and accomplish these purposes through other communal arrangements, but to no avail.
Objective social science research points out the simple facts that our social experiments with the traditional family have failed. Tragically, it has failed children the most, but it has also failed adults. Adults experience less and less gratification as family ties become disengaged. The much-vaunted freedom to seek personal fulfillment (at the cost of marriage and family) has led to less and less satisfaction in relationships all around. Jean Bethke Elshtain, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, stated,
This is the harsh truth of the matter: Americans, at the end of the twentieth century, suffer from the effects of a dramatic decline in the formation of social bonds, networks, and trust coupled with a diminution in investment in children. Children have borne the brunt of decades of negative social trends whose results are just now coming into clear focus; standing out in harsh relief. 1
She says this is due to a series of "body blows" delivered to the traditional family.
The traditional family is irreplaceable because the purpose of the family is tied in with the purpose of life, which is to attain happiness through loving and being loved. Happiness cannot be found by oneself. It is attained by relating with a counterpart. A teacher may have profound knowledge, but he or she cannot be happy being unable to share that knowledge with students, either in person or by proxy through published books. Happiness comes in this case from receptive students, responsive colleagues, and an appreciative audience. Similarly, we do not dress ourselves up solely for the satisfaction of seeing our own mirror image. We want to go out, to share ourselves with and be appreciated by others. Joy is generated in relationships.
We call this "love". We absolutely need love if we are to find happiness and fulfill the purpose of life. Unhappiness in human life comes because we have difficulty in loving. Typical problems include: feeling that no one loves us; wanting to love someone but being unable to give; loving someone who spurns us; being loved by someone yet being unable to receive that love; and replacing love with substitutes that are ultimately unsatisfying.
The family is our learning ground of love. The relationships in our family are the most important in our life. Through our family we learn our fundamental orientation toward others. The family is where we first perceive the world and the people in it. All the other relationships in our lives are patterned after these primary relationships with our mothers, fathers, siblings and relatives. These relationships are the basis for how we perceive the greater world; what effect it will likely have upon us and what effect we feel we can have upon it. M. Scott Peck recounts from his psychiatric experience that the experience of their home life tends to shape children's visions of the world. If they grow up in a warm, nurturing home, they tend to envision the world as a warm, nurturing place. Children raised in cold hostile homes, however, tend to see the world as a cold, hostile Place. 2
The family is truly the ground of our being in the deepest possible sense. We derive our very images of ourselves from our families. In adulthood we leave our original family and create new families of our own as well as new networks of relationships with friends, colleagues, and various associates. Yet unless radically intervened with, the patterns of relationships set forth in our families remain with us and determine the patterns of the relationships in our lives.
There are four areas or realms of love in the family. They are: the children's realm of love, the brother's and sister's realm of love, the realm of conjugal love and the parental realm of love. Each of these realms of love has its own distinctive qualities and purposes. The love between a husband and wife is qualitatively different than the love between siblings, the love of parents for their children, etc. Each of these relationships flowers when the appropriate love is practiced.
Each realm of love teaches a specific course of lessons, and the realms are a progression. Successful graduation from one class of love powerfully affects one's abilities in the next highest class of love. As there is a particular quality of human love appropriate to each class, there is also a corresponding quality of divine love available to us as we progress through the lessons of each class. To use the analogy of forms we may say that as we successfully practice love within any one of the realms, we begin to partake of the form of that love in the divine realm. As there are absolute and perfect forms of justice, beauty, etc. to which we aspire and appeal, so there are divine forms of sibling, conjugal, parental, and child-like love. The more we practice love on earth, the more we attract love from heaven.
It is because of this that some marriages are sustained over decades at a time. When a couple practices true love, whether they are conscious of it or not, they receive the concomitant rewards and their relationship is sustained. As Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, notes, such principles are not invented by us or by society; they are the laws of the universe that pertain to human relationships and human organizations. These principles are woven into the fabric of every civilized society and constitute the roots of every family and institution that has endured and prospered. 3
Since the four realms of love follow each other in chronological succession, like grades at school, we should ascend from one form to the next when our love reaches the standard required for entry into the higher form. Thus, it is not appropriate to enter into the form of conjugal love before love for brothers and sisters has matured. Each supersedes yet includes the realms below it. Let us examine, one by one, the realms of love in the family.
The Children's Realm of Love
Every child is sacred; he or she contains a divine nature, what George Washington called "the spark of celestial fire called conscience." 4 Every child deserves a warm, loving atmosphere which will nurture his or her growing spirit and body. The people best suited to give the child that nurturing are his or her loving parents. Reverend Sun Myung Moon has said that a child's right to loving parents is a basic human right.
Research in the social sciences affirms the crucial role of the parents. In Marriage in America, a Report to the Nation, a diverse body of experts concluded, "The loving two-parent family is the best environment for children -- the place where children gain the identity, discipline, and moral education that are essential for their full individual development" 5 Dr. Elshtain reflected,
The humble truth is that every child needs and deserves the love and provision of caring adults in a relation ship that perdures. The committed, two-married parent family is the best environment we know anything about in which to rear children. 6
The child's inner growth is nurtured by the parents' love. Their love induces the child's heart to grow. Just as sunlight coming down from the sky causes plants to grow upward and sprout many leaves, the parents' downward love induces the child's responsive love. Parental love gives a child an abiding sense of peace and self worth. A child's ability to love grows as a response to the parental love he or she receives. Such qualities as self-esteem, trust, openness and obedience develop in response to the love of the parents.
The children's realm of love is the most passive and receptive of the realms. The child's main duties are to absorb and respond. A keynote of a child's response to his or her parents is obedience. However, this obedience must be founded upon trust in the parents; trust won by their unflagging devotion to the child's best interests, their true love. Gratitude, comprehension, and empathy may develop later on; a child must sometimes suspend understanding why and have faith in the parents' directives. A loved child will have such faith.
Traditional stories, songs, and nursery rhymes were often used to imbue children with the virtues of obedience, humility, equality, and perseverance. Educators such as William Bennett and John Silber recognize the importance of such stories, rhymes, and practices in the moral education of children.
Dr. Ross Campbell advises that before parents even conceive of discipline -- which he calls "training" -- they check whether they have been loving their child fully or not. He advises such simple forms of love as eye contact, listening, expressing physical affection, and giving one's time to the child -- giving of oneself for the benefit of the child. Most instances of disobedience can be alleviated positively without resort to punishment. Dr. Campbell says the child's inner "tank" or reservoir of heart must be full of love. When it is, the child is usually happily compliant. When it is not, trouble starts.
Every family is more or less dysfunctional when it comes to true love. Neurosis results from a lack of true love. M. Scott Peck's notes that love issues were both the cause and the cure of neurosis. Hence, until we are healed by true love, we will never be completely healed by any other means.
Dr. Campbell advocates that unconditional love should be the means by which a child learns to identify with his or her parents. "In order for a child to identify with his parents (relate closely with them) and be able to accept their standards, he must feel genuinely loved and accepted by them ... parents must make sure that a child feels unconditionally loved. 8
However, where is such unconditional love to come from? How are we to attain to it? Authors Paul C. Vitz and John Gertner propose rebirth through Christ to dismantle the neurotic Oedipus/Electra superego imposed through the love-hate relationship of children toward their parents. This is the beginning of healing. Christ is a parent of true love. His love holds no ambivalencies. The person is re-parented and healed through Christ's perfect love. The self then becomes more integrated and functions more optimally.
The interruption of intergenerational neurosis (sin) begins with encountering a True Parent-Christ-and being reborn through him and the Holy Spirit, and being infused with the perfect parental love he reflects and embodies. However, the rebirth (and implied re-parenting) paradigm of Christianity is somewhat incomplete. Christ is the True Father (or father of true love), but there is no True Mother. There is no real family model in Christianity. Jesus was a celibate who never married, and many of his followers have followed his example.
Re-parenting through Christ is implied in the new family imagery used in Christianity. Fellow members of Christ are brethren-brothers and sisters. In Catholicism, some brethren live under an abbot or abbess (from the Hebrew word for "abba;' which means father). The abbot is a "Father;' the abbess is a "Mother Superior'.' They represent the true parenthood of Christ. Hence, Christianity gropes toward a resolution of the intergenerational passing down of neurosis (sin) through establishing a new family in Christ, the True Father and second Adam.
We have mentioned that there is no second Eve in Christianity, although the love of the Virgin Mary serves this function in Catholicism. Also, rebirth only affects the individual who has accepted Christ. His or her children must receive Christ on their own. They are not born into the family of Christ. Neurosis (sin) thus continues to couch at the door.
The need for True Parents -- parents of true, Christ-like love is the most pressing need in the world in order to resolve neurosis (sin). It is in this most crucial of relationships -- between parent and child -- that the foundation for personality and the future take shape. The more true the love of the parents, the happier, healthier, and more productive and creative a child they will raise.
In a small child's eyes, the parents are God-like in stature and power. For good or ill or points between, the parents shape the child's inner universe and ultimately his or her relationship to the larger universe. Sir James M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, said, "The God to whom little boys say their prayers has a face very much like their mother's. 9 Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, said, "Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children." 10 Granville Stanley Hall said, "The mother's face and voice are the first conscious objects the infant soul unfolds, and she soon comes to stand in the very place of God to her child" 11 Parents, then, should do all they can to reflect God-like love to their children: true love.
The child's family is the training ground for the child's conscience, his or her sense of right and wrong. This is an important part of the child's realm of love. The conscience is like an inner parent. Although it is an innate, natural compass, the conscience needs to be stimulated, educated, and enlightened. Children have a natural desire to know right from wrong. They take issues of bad and good behavior deeply to heart. Parental love includes the responsibility to educate the child's conscience. This includes saying no and administering discipline as well as affirming and celebrating the child's good deeds. The education and development of conscience is one of the most important aspects of the children's realm of love.
The child's realm of love is a wondrous realm, inhabited by God's most delightful creatures. Children are imbued with a natural credibility and insatiable curiosity, making them the world's best learners. They are deeply conservative, almost ordering the stability of the home and demanding a predictable universe. Joyous and fun-loving by nature, they are our teachers in the innocent enjoyment and wonder of life. They are deeply concerned with issues of good and evil. They have a fund of natural affection for their parents which only prolonged ill-usage can alienate. The parent who gives true love to a child will receive in turn the child's realm of love-a love as fresh, as magical, as old/new as the morning dew.
The Brother's and Sister's Realm of Love
We learn to love our brothers and sisters through our parents' love for them. That is the root principle of the brethren's realm of love. A son's respect for his sister stems from the fact that she is loved by their parents. A daughter learns to love her brother because her parents love him. We naturally love whom our parents love. We could see our brothers and sisters as competition for our parents' attention, but instead we can love them if we view them through our mother and father's loving eyes. To love a sibling is to love one's parents, who also love him.
Loving parents are absolutely essential to the development of love among siblings. Their love induces it to grow. Love among brothers and sisters is the sideways expansion of children's love. The parents' love endows each child with value, making them worthy of respect. From this starting point, children learn empathy and caring. They learn to share and give. Sibling love expands into friendship, and ultimately into the social virtues of tolerance and cooperation-what used to be called "brotherly love:"
Yet sibling love is not necessarily "equal" as we understand equality. The older child is the first to be loved by his parents. He has a head-start in developing children's love toward them. By the time a younger sibling is born, the older child has already identified with his parents. This sets up a natural distinction between elder and younger siblings. The eldest child should naturally feel responsible to guide and help the younger brothers and sisters. The younger siblings, for their part, should respect and emulate their elder siblings.
The family as the school of love can clearly be seen in these relationships. The elder child, having more experience with the parents and having received their undivided love for a longer period of time, should be secure enough in their love to be able to nurture the younger ones in the spirit of the parents. Thus, the elder sibling gains even more love and appreciation from his or her parents and the gratification of new maturity and success.
In the Orient, the distinction between elder and younger is codified in the norms of culture. The eldest son may receive a greater share of the inheritance, but he is also expected to bear greater responsibility for the family's welfare. Younger children are expected to show deference to their elder brothers and sisters, but they expect guidance, care and leadership from them.
Sharon Goodman, principal of a private school in New York State, recounted an experience of elder/younger relationships at the Little Angels School for the Performing Arts in Seoul, Korea. She was a house-parent in the dormitories among a mixture of Oriental and Western youngsters. The performing arts being what they are, there was a great deal of jealousy and competition among the adolescents. A simple rule was instituted, based on normal Korean tradition. Children were to relate to each other on the basis of age. The honorific titles embedded in the Korean language were used. In Korea there is a different, more formal way of addressing an elder than addressing a peer. A Western visitor may find it rather probing when the second or third question asked by a Korean is "How old are you?" However, the Korean does not mean it rudely. In fact, he is trying to be polite. If you are older than your questioner, you will be treated with more respect and less familiarity than if you are his peer or younger.
The system worked almost as soon as it was instituted. Peace came to the dorms. Rather than lording it over the younger ones, the older ones felt secure in the respect shown to them. They began to coach and protect the younger ones, even acting as mediators for them. Feeling protected and cared for, the younger ones felt less need to assert themselves aggressively. Everyone began acting in a manner which benefited everyone else.
Such patterns are common in Oriental family structures. This may be one reason why today's teachers find their Asian and Asian-American students so pleasant and attentive, while reports of incivility, lack of respect and peer cruelty are escalating among American children.
It must be emphasized again that with the privileges of respect and seniority come greater responsibility. An elder son may be the confidant of the parents, endowed with more trust and privileges. However, it is incumbent upon the elder son to share these blessings with the younger ones, to serve and protect them. Sibling rivalry should then be minimal.
The natural structure of the family provides the perfect growth opportunities for the minimization -of sibling rivalry and the maximization of love. It is here that we can see the school of love at work. A new baby arrives, a potential rival. Yet new babies often sleep prolonged hours during the day, allowing the mother to spend time with older children. Dr. Benjamin Spock's recipe for reducing sibling rivalry is to encourage older children in the care of younger ones. These are their important first steps in learning how to be loving parents themselves in later years. Most young children are inspired by the idea of helping with the baby and will do so with alacrity. The parents' gratitude and praise puffs the older child up with a newfound pride and motivates him or her to do more. l2 Dr. Spock says, "One of the ways in which a young child tries to get over the pain of having a younger rival is to act as if he himself were no longer a child, competing in the same league as the baby, but as if he were a third parent" 13 This is how the sibling realm of love constructs the foundation for the future forms of conjugal and parental love. By encouraging the older child in this, "the parents can help a child to actually transform resentful feelings into cooperativeness and genuine altruism." 14 Dr. Spock testifies that many first children become happy parents themselves and are also "apt to go into professions like teaching, social work, nursing, medicine, which are concerned with caring for others.
The younger ones respond eagerly to the love of the elder child, and a love bond is formed which brings great joy to the entire family. This is the beginning of true love-attending to the needs of others. It begins between brothers and sisters.
The love which should imbue all social relationships is an expansion of the brotherly and sisterly realm of love in the family. We can deal with many complicated relationships in society based on the lessons learned in this realm of heart. Once we have learned not to envy our sibling but to love him or her as our parents do, we can learn to respect every person as one who is loved. The key is to find our common Parent who loves us all. As is written in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, when "Father love is reigning o'er us, brother love binds man to man"
The sibling realm of love is crucial to the development of one's abilities in true love. It is a realm where disinterested love develops. The satisfactions of brother's and sister's love come from sharing, not ego gratification. Brothers and sisters share their parents, a home, a name, chores, bathrooms, clothes and many belongings. Brothers and sisters know each other for who they are, at their best and at their worst, in their most natural state. The brother's and sister's realm of love is crucial preparation for true love in marriage, for it is here that one learns about living with the opposite sex without the powerful complications of sex. It is here that one learns to act from the heart for the benefit of another who is one's peer. If love between brothers and sisters is well-developed, true conjugal love, with the powerful addition of sex, will come easier. Therefore, sexual purity during the brethren stage is essential. Sex is a powerful, powerful thing. Unless the heart is developed in its abilities in disinterested love, sex will overwhelm true love with its compelling power, even within marriage.
Teenagers who engage in premarital sex are cutting into the share of the brethren realm of love and arresting its development in their hearts. Eventually, this will cut into their share of true love later in life, setting the stage for their marriages to founder.
The Conjugal Realm of Love
Sex is an explosive event. It engages the mind and heart as well as the body. It is a powerfully binding force between two people. That is why sex is reserved for the conjugal realm of love. Ideally, by the time one has graduated from the brethren's realm of love, the heart has developed to the point where its true love is strong enough to withstand the tides of sex and not be overwhelmed by them. The power of sex is also why it should be reserved for only one partner-one's lawfully wedded spouse. Beyond laws and rules, however, conjugal love enters into the ground of the holy.
The most fulfilling expression of sexuality is in the conjugal love relationship between husband and wife blessed in holy matrimony. Within this form, as with poetic forms, greater forces of creativity and emotion are released from within the seeming restraints. The rules which seem to restrain us instead show us the gateway to Paradise.
Marriage resembles the divine nature. Male and female enmeshed in oneness are an expression of the Godhead. The sexual act of marriage partakes of the divine; it is holy and should be treated as such. God's great ocean of love can be part of it. Because it is divine in nature, that means, among other things, that it should be inviolate.
Editor Elizabeth McAlister calls sex outside of marriage "an act of violence". She defines violence as being a denial of another's humanity. Sex outside of marriage denies the humanity of the other, reduces the value of the other to the moments of pleasure he or she affords. 16 Dealing with all the other aspects of the other's humanity is postponed-usually permanently. Sex outside of the committed love of marriage reduces both partners to sets of genitalia and nervous excitation. It has little, if anything, to do with who the other is as a person, or with love. It involves no commitment to the person as a whole or for any length of time.
We tend to think of sexuality in marriage (especially marriage with religious overtones) as being dull. Illicit and varied liaisons seem more exciting. Yet the exact opposite is true. As C. S. Lewis says in The Screwtape Letters "On His sea is pleasure:" 17 God created the physiological aspects of sex, the sexual organs and the stimulating senses, imbuing both male and female with the ability to feel exquisite pleasure during union. Sexual pleasure is clearly a gift to humankind. Within the context of holy matrimony, sex is to be fully enjoyed. The greatest stimulant to sex is true love. Since God is love and is the source of love, sex under God's canopy is the most ineffably satisfying experience available on earth. There is no shame. There is only beauty.
Children's love achieves its goal when the child has passed through the growing period of the children's realm of love and sibling love and has reached maturity. Then the child is ready for marriage, when he or she is free to engage in sexual love. In the conjugal love of marriage, the child experiences the ultimate in love flowing through the marriage relationship as he or she stands with his or her spouse as the complete mirror of God's duality.
Brother's and sister's love also reaches its apex in marriage. By having cultivated this kind of love through many horizontal relationships with brothers, sisters, relatives and friends, the intimate relationship between husband and wife can be smooth and harmonious. In practicing brotherly and sisterly love, we learn skills with which to love our spouses.
In the Hindu marriage ceremony, the bride and groom circle a fire seven times. Although the seven steps symbolize many things, among them is an almost fraternal love between husband and wife. The bride and bridegroom chant, "May you be my friend with your seventh step!"
Finally, parental love begins only in marriage. Hence, we can see that marriage is the intersection point of the four realms of family love. Marriage is the point where all types of love are consummated. When a woman loves her husband, she can relate to him as a father, a husband, a brother and a son. When a man loves his wife, he can relate to her as a mother, a wife, a sister and a daughter. We can never place too much value on our spouses. They represent everything: the family, humankind, the universal pair system, and the image of God. The union of husband and wife in true love is indeed a sacred and precious union. The purpose of life, which is joy through love, cannot be fulfilled apart from it.
The bonds between a husband and wife, launched with a holy wedding ceremony, are forged through weathering the vicissitudes of daily life with true love. They are sealed by their exclusive sexual relationship. The fusion between husband and wife is the greatest love on earth, save one: the love of a parent for a child.
The Parental Realm of Love
We have said that a husband and wife uniting as one in true conjugal love complete the image of God. In resembling God, they also share in His/Her creative nature. They can bear children. They will further participate in the divine nature of nurturing life. This is the parental realm of love.
Honore de Balzac said that no one who is a mother is ever truly free. 18 A parent's role is one of self-sacrifice. During the time of gestation, the baby growing in the mother's womb takes its nutrients from her body. Birth, a painful and taxing event, is followed by months of slavish care on the part of the parents. A breast-feeding mother gives the child nutrition from her own body. The child needs a great deal of holding and caressing; she needs love and devotion.
One can never divorce one's parents. In our litigious society where the ties that bind are being loosened everywhere, even this has been attempted, yet for the most part our laws rightly support the primacy of parents' bonds to their natural children. Social scientists have stated that the willingness to make the investment necessary to raise a child can seldom be found anywhere but among the natural parents of a child.
Theodor Reik said, "Romance fails us-and so do friendships-but the relationship of mother and child remains indelible and indestructible-the strongest bond upon this earth:" 19
Lincoln said, 'All that I am I owe to my angel mother'. 12 Lincoln was raised in a log cabin. His family was so poor that his clothes were held together with thorns. His mother knew little but the Bible. However, in that humble setting with few resources, she raised a moral giant through her excellent parental love.
The parental role does not decrease as the child grows; it increases. The parents support the child materially for many years. Once the child learns to take care of his or her own basic physical needs, the parental task becomes more complex. The parent must educate and guide the child. The parent must win the child over to the ways of good discipline, conscientiousness, honesty, and a host of other virtues. The parent must discern the child's talents and strong points and arrange for them to be enhanced. The parent must discern the child's weak points and arrange for correction and help. The parent must guide the child into some sort of useful relationship to the community; the parent must help prepare the child to relate well to others, from kindergarten to marriage. The task of the parent is enormous and daunting-it is utterly for the sake of another. While there are other agencies such as schools to assist in such tasks, the primary responsibility rightly rests upon the parent. It is a sacred and daunting undertaking and requires great devotion. A Chinese proverb recommends that parents give their children "roots and wings." 21 This means children must be given a sense of who they are and where they spring from, plus the ability and desire to soar into new heights of independent accomplishment.
Parental love should be true, faithful and unselfish. In raising their children, parents must be sacrificial, generous, patient and forgiving. Parents should never seek anything in return for their love other than the well-being and happiness of the child. Should her child run into the street in front of on coming traffic, a mother will run after him or her, heedless of the danger to herself. Should the house catch on fire and a child be sleeping inside, a father will not hesitate to run into the burning house, risking his own life to save his child. Parental love is selfless; it is all for the sake of the child.
Parents want their children to grow up to be successful in life. Indeed, parents would like their children to be better than they are themselves. We want our children to be smart, attractive, clever, strong and brave. We want them to have a good education, a good career, and to find abundance in their lives. Most of all, we should want our children to become men and women who can truly love and be loved. Such people will enjoy the greatest happiness.
The parental heart is one of pain as well as joy. When a father disciplines a delinquent or truant child, he feels that child's pain, but his heart is even more pained over the danger to his child should he continue the bad behavior. In the movie Places in the Heart a widow must discipline her son, who has been caught smoking behind the schoolhouse. Upon administering the "strop" as she knew her deceased husband would have done, she is more visibly shaken than her stoic son. It is obvious that the famous parental statement "This hurts me worse than it does you" was true in her case.
How much more painful is it for parents when the child has grown and no longer accepts discipline or instruction? What can they do to bring a wayward child to his or her senses? The parents can only try to endure with what love and patience they can, hoping for a miracle.
The parable of the prodigal son is a poignant and perennial illustration of the heart of a parent toward a difficult child. The statement that the father espied the prodigal son returning home from a long distance away shows that he had probably looked down that same road many times, hoping for the very sight that finally materialized: his wayward son returning home. This son had demanded his inheritance of his father, deserted his home, and proceeded to squander all he had on "riotous living" Coming to his senses, he returned to his father penitent, asking nothing more than to be allowed to work as a servant. The joyful father took him back as his son-indeed decked him out in princely regalia-so overjoyed was he that his son had finally undergone a change of heart.
In truth, we alienate our children because of our own shortcomings in love, our own selfishness, damaging the children's realm of love. Without a firm foundation in the children's realm of love, young people grow up to become rebellious and distrustful of parents and, by extension, of all rules and authority. Not easily trusting others, they find it difficult to ask for help. In addition, they lack self-respect and inner peace -- a sense that they are dearly loved. For some this can lead to depression and suicide. Others may adopt a devil-may-care attitude toward life and take to alcohol, drugs, sexual promiscuity and even crime. Indeed, without a warm sense of being at home in the universe and a sense of confidence in his parents, a young person becomes desperate to find happiness but looks in all the wrong places. Homosexuality, radical politics, fast living -- all these can be vain searches for happiness by people who lack the foundation of love within themselves. Their hearts are crippled because they have not been cultivated in the children's realm of love.
Psychotherapist Arthur Janov, the founder of "primal therapy" writes "The major reason I have found that children become neurotic is that their parents are busy struggling with unmet infantile needs of their own. In this way the sins of the parents are visited on the children in a seemingly never ending cycle." 21 Alexander Lowen, a Reichian psychotherapist and founder of "bioenergy" wrote that "the Oedipus complex of the child generally reflects the unresolved Oedipal conflict of the parents." 22 This is how misery and dysfunction are perpetuated in our families.
All our social ills can be traced to a dysfunction in the family and the failure to realize the four forms of love. Society is an expansion of the family. Our attitudes and ways of relating with people are first learned in the family. We think of our cherished social values-freedom, equality, peace, respect for authority-as the achievements of political philosophers and social thinkers. Yet these values are first felt on the most human level in the relationships between parents and children, brothers and sisters. George Washington said that everything he was stemmed from the nurturing he had received at the hands of his mother. "My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw;' said Washington. 'All I am I owe to my mother.' 23
Without true parental love, children will also fail to develop fully in the siblings' realm of heart. All too often family members are indifferent to each other or have even become enemies. Moreover, there is a feeling of indifference toward other people in general. It is a reflection of uncaring parents wherein children's and siblings' love was underdeveloped.
What the world needs are people who can become true parents. These are parents who reflect a nature of true love to their children. These are parents who have successfully freed themselves of much narcissism through the assiduous practice of love. As people become true parents, they then become the starting-point for a new cycle of the four realms of love in their families. Their good parental love for their children induces in the children a loving response which flowers as children's love. As they bear more children, their love for each of their children unites the children in bonds of brethren love. Furthermore, by shielding their children from premature sexual involvement and teaching them to love and help others, they are preparing them for the day when they stand before the altar of God as brides and bridegrooms and enter the realm of conjugal love. Through their constant love and guidance, the parents help the next generation to grow into a responsible generation of true parents.
The father who prays nightly for his middle-aged daughter's safety, the mother who cannot sleep until she hears her hulking son's key in the door-these are examples of parental devotion. Children not only have their parents by the heart -- children are the parents' heart, walking embodiments of that heart, and eminently breakable.
The loving parent knows the sinking, sickening feeling when the child does not immediately answer his or her call, walks perilously close to an oncoming car, or does not turn up on the school bus. This is the stuff of which gray hairs are made. The loving parent prudently buys the second-best toy to save money, then stays up half the night wishing she'd bought her child the best one. Though parents have total physical and economic power over their diminutive offspring, in fact the child renders them helpless with the powerful ally of parental love. It is the most potent realm of love in the universe, for it is the love which most accurately reflects the heart of the ultimate Parent, God.
1. Elshtain, Jean, Philosophic Reflections on the Family at Century's End, Paper presented at the Sixth International Congress of Professors World Peace Academy, Seoul, Korea, Aug. 21-25, 1995. pg. I .
2. Peck, M. Scott, A World Waiting to Be Born, Civility Rediscovered, NY: Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing, 1993. Part Three, Side Five
3. Covey, Stephen R., Principle-Centered Leadership, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1991. pg. 18.
4. Washington, George, "Rules of Civility in Conversation Among Men," The Book of Virtues, edited by William J. Bennet, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1993. pg. 18.
5. Marriage in America, A Report to the Nation, The Council on Families in America, sponsored by the Institute of American Values, 1995. pg. 54.
6. Elshtain, J, Dr., op. cit., pp. 2-3.
7. Campbell, Ross, M.D., How to Really Love Your Child, London: Victor Books, 1977.
8. Ibid., pg. 126.
9. Harvey, Gayle, ed., A W other is Love, New York: Gramercy Books, 1992.
12. Spock, Benjamin, M.D., Baby and Child Care, Fifth Edition, NY: Pocket Books, 1987. pg.411.
14. Ibid. pg. 412.
16. McAlister, Elizabeth, ed., "Is Marriage Obsolete?" Sojourners, March-April, 1996. Vol. 25, No. 2. pg.18.
17. Lewis, C. S., The Screwtape Letters.
18. Harvey, Gayle, ed., op. cit.
21. Janov, Arthur, The Primal Scream: Primal Therapy, the Cure for Neurosis, New York: Delta, 1970. p. 27.
22. Alexander Lowen, Fear of Life, New York: Macmillan, 1980. p. 29.
23. Harvey, Gayle, ed., op. cit.
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