Friday, April 13, 2007Growing the Good
I have pride and I have anger. And I sometimes feel inclined to do what many other mothers do by putting on a mask of competance and benevolence in public in order to hide these negative qualities in myself. The devil rationalizes this to us, helping us think that what we are doing is for the greater good or necessary. And I admit that sometimes it's a good thing when one of my boys does something very unruly in public that I don't shout at him or spank his bottom-- it gives me pause to think and calm down in my own mind so I can approach the child in a peaceful way, not in a reaction to my anger. But this is all done to keep up the appearance of being a good mother to others. I want others to look favorably on me; I seek their approval. What a shame. The danger in putting on this mask in public... though sometimes beneficial in immediate dealings... is that it helps us to ignore the roots of the problem. Pride and Anger-- the bedfellows that are the most dangerous obstacles to parenting. Only when we really humble ourselves and pray to purge ourselves of these defects can we really begin to cultivate the good in our children.
Oftentimes we fall into the trap of thinking that raising kids is simply a matter of correcting their faults and disciplining their bad choices... as if their "natural good" will spring through if we are busy cutting down the bad weeds. This is a grave error. Children have original sin like the rest of us... you will constantly be chopping down their sinful weeds because they will always be there.
The way to truly nourish their goodness-- their wholeness of character-- is by cultivating the good inside of them. Make the ground fertile for this good to grow by focusing on it and tending to it and investing your energy in developing it. The way to build the character of a child in a manner worthy of the dignity Christ instilled in him is to cultivate the good, not vainly trying to destroy the evil. Of course, this doesn't mean being totally lax with your child or ignoring their faults (another form of abuse in my opinion!) but to only take naughtiness in proportion to the whole soul with which you've been entrusted. To really spend time enjoying your children, learning with them, loving them and encouraging the growth of the beauty, skills and "goodness" God has given them.
Doing this will not only produce beautiful "plants" (i.e. souls), but it will achieve the dual purpose in humbling us as mothers and avoiding our own sinful tendencies to rule over the children with pride and squashing badness with anger.