Why is it that we are so affected by the actions of our parents? Why are so many of our choices, actions and perspectives shaped by the actions of our Moms and Dads? Many parents want to believe that their children won’t be affected by the things that they see, or experience growing up. That any fights, breakups, financial worries, or personal turmoil will fly over the child’s head invisibly – instead of penetrate them deeply.
The hard fact is that parents are just like us. They make mistakes. They are human. They try their best, and their best isn’t always good enough. And our later decisions can truly be shaped by the experiences we have with them.
The one tool I have found to combat any sadness, tragedy, or disappointment is a little thing I like to call – forgiveness. Forgiveness with a dash of compassion. How else should we – also imperfect creatures ourselves – remedy the occasional resentment of the imperfect nature of those who raised us?
I put my parents up on a pedestal, growing up. And the times they have fallen, my disappointment was great. The weight of their mistakes weighed on me with a heavy complexity whose purpose took a long time to understand. I didn’t realize at the time the greater purpose that would cross generations and cause me to make certain choices that would in turn affect the world around myself.
After all, it was never up to me. All I had were the tools that I was raised with. My family instilled into me tools, values, and certain character of which I often wonder if would have come naturally or not. And when the sky fell in my family, those tools and qualities remained steadfast – built into my core, I guess. Yet, slowly I edged a little further and further away from anything that resembled how I saw my parents… Was it because their mistakes had caused what they taught me to lose its meaning? Was it because I thought that perhaps if they were wrong, and I did the opposite of what they told me was right – *I* would be in the right place? I’m not really sure. But I definitely began to lose touch.
If you’ve ever seen Back to the Future, where Marty’s brother and sister slowly begin to disappear from the family photo as Marty’s time travel into the past begins to affect whether his parents would meet or not – and in turn be able to have those children in the first place… I think the same thing happened in a different way to me as I tried to shape my future actions around being the opposite of what my parents taught me as a child. Only this time – I was the one disappearing.
My sense of self, instead of being shaped around the values I was raised with – such as honesty, loyalty, honor, goodness, kindness, patience, love, and the like – I began looking to other things to give me a new set of values. And where did I look to find these? Well, out in the world of course! Values galore, a Disneyland of values where anything goes and everything goes, any shape size or pattern you might want, you can find ‘values’ that suit your fancy any which way. Any and all being perfectly acceptable, too – nevermind whether or not they are good for you or the rest of humanity.
It felt liberating to have “control” over my own life, and to be able to “choose” what *I* wanted to do or not do…after all – *I* knew better what was right for me than anyone else…right?
I mean, whats more freeing and righteous than being without boundaries, judgement, rules, a set path, etc.? Shouldn’t we all be able to explore for ourselves and go “find out” what is really “right” for us?
Its funny how when you tell a kid they can eat whatever they want for dinner, they choose ice cream every time. He ends up a lump on the couch with sticky brown all over his face, clutching his stomach!
But wait! He was “free to choose”! He enjoyed every moment of it! It was his dream come true! This child should be allowed to choose to eat whatever he wants for dinner EVERY night! Right…?
Are we at all the same way?
Why was I taught to eat vegetables and protein at dinner? Granted, not all children are taught healthy eating habits and some may even be taught to eat the ice cream… But for those of us who did have good or moderate instruction – we were not just being taught by people who had nothing better to do than try to impose their self-attained knowledge onto us for the sake of validating their own egos. We were taught these things based off of years of our own parents going through trials and tribulations that shaped their worldview and cemented treacherous life lessons into cliffnotes gold.
Unfortunately, this gold often sounded like stern lecturing.
In reality though, we were being given a gift that we may not have valued at the time…and that we may not have even valued recently – still stuck in the mindset that we know better, or that they just don’t understand. And perhaps with some things those are partly true – but the overarching truth is that the values, character traits and lessons that we were given precious time to glean in our early years under the guidance of our elders (if we were so lucky to receive these things as many are not) were given to us as tools to keep as we moved forward out of the protective shelter of home and out into the world.
I feel like I’ve “left home” many times, and each time I set out to find out for myself what the mystery was all about. Or whether I could carve out a path for myself based on what I thought was right. And some of the most shocking moments of my life have been, and likely will continue to be – finding out that what I thought was right based off of the worldly experiences that I had – were completely wrong, and in fact leading me down a road that was more than just bumpy…it was going the wrong way. There’s a reason that when we ask for advice, we turn to our most trusted advisors – the wisest, most experienced souls we can find. And we must then combine their counsel with the underlying, knowing feeling in our gut…whatever that may be.
Whether you are a spiritual person or not – anyone can see that moving about in this world puts all of us in the firing line for all kinds of things that may not be good for us. And we may indulge in those things, whatever our weaknesses may be, time and time again – be fooled time and time again. But if we are willing to even entertain the possibility that perhaps…we don’t always know best? And perhaps… some of those things that we were taught held more merit than we have at certain times been willing to see… It might actually save us from stepping into a deeper hole set more invisibly in front of us than we’ve anticipated.
When you come all the way back around, sometimes in a manner that mimics brushing death down the path you thought was the right way – full circle – where you’ve seen all you need to see to realize the strength in family, love, tradition, and in the things that you left in search of a “better” life – you have a gratitude and a thankfulness to be alive that cannot be expressed in words.
Our parents, elders, and cherished mentors are not perfect – but humility and forgiveness allow the values and lessons that they’ve attempted to impart upon us – to help our own paths be straighter and be remembered when we are making decisions in life. As much as we may want to look at our parents as “knowing” less because they’ve made mistakes in life…it doesn’t make the message behind the values they’ve tried to impart any less real. And it is that, that we can look to for guidance – into a place far more knowing than all of us put together.
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