by Fr Richard Heilman | August 20, 2016 3:30 PM
Bad parents seem to care more about their own well-being ahead of that of their children. And so, they work from the perspective of wanting the children to like them. This is their higher priority. So, entice the children with stuff and keep them happy and, as their theory goes, the children will learn to make the parents happy in order to keep the “stuff train” rolling along. This way the parent is not just a parent but a friend of the child. Many of these parents want their children to feel like they are their equals … never over-bearing, authoritarian, but their friend. What the parents are really seeking is a comfortable and tranquil home life, while avoiding conflict at all costs. These parents may claim to love their children, but they have gone a long way to objectify their children as mere fixtures in the home to keep placated, while the parents seek their own higher priority of tranquility – a happy home life.
However, virtually all children of these bad parents learn early on about this high priority of tranquility in the home. This is learned each time the parent seems to reward the child for their fits of temper and rage. As if to say to the child, “I’ll give you more stuff, if you calm down and give me my tranquil home life.” Thus is born the “spoiled child” … this is the child that believes their bad behavior will bring them rewards. All they need to do is to threaten the tranquility of the home life, and the “stuff train” rolls right into their station.
Good parents “truly” love their children. A classic definition of love, given by St. Thomas Aquinas, states that: “To love is to will the good of another.” Good parents are wise … they understand of what our ultimate good consists. God made us to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven. This consists in striving to be the best we can be. St. Catherine of Siena believed, “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!” Good parents know that their child will live a very happy and fulfilling life in this world, and live forever in heaven, if they set their heart on these higher aspirations. And so, the parents are the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith. This is what it really means when St. Thomas Aquinas said,”To love is to will the good of another.”
This means that parents are on 24/7 to “immediately” praise and affirm correct behavior, and to catch and correct incorrect behavior, even when that means the parent may need to be stern and punitive in order to impress upon the child the seriousness of their need to correct their behavior. There may be times when the child will test the resolve of the parent by reverting to fits of temper and rage, to see if they are capable of manipulating the parent. But, good parents are very clear in those moments, and leave no room for future “tests” from the child. These children learn, deep in their heart, that they are loved … that their parents are truly willing the good for them.
When we look at these two classic descriptions of good parents and bad parents, we see that these descriptions can be applied in describing such things as governing in the secular world. Don’t we know that the failed system of liberal government falls in line with the bad parent? They objectify their constituency as merely “potential votes.” In other words, they give them stuff, so they continue to “like them” and vote for them. The problem is that they do little, if anything, to “will the good of their constituents” … they keep them down and dependent on stuff, rather than challenge them to become the best they can be. Furthermore, many who adhere to this “bad parent government” believe the “unwashed masses” (us) are simply incapable of rising to new heights … striving to be the best they can be. This is just a base and impersonal quid pro quo that has nothing to do with “real” love.
A good government does all that it can to raise the dignity of all they serve. They work to afford them opportunities to strive to be the best they can be, whether that is quality education or good jobs or family friendly legislation or opportunities to serve our neighbor in need. We are Americans! We are strivers! We are good people!
Yes! God has created us in His own image and we are to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven. Jesus said this would not be easy, but it would be worth it. Jesus even warned, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter” (Matt. 7:13). We have been consecrated and given the name, “Father.” Our flock asks us to please love them! Really love them! They are not mere constituents to keep placated, so they like us more and their envelopes keep filling the collection basket! We are their spiritual fathers. We must help them to “clearly” know right from wrong! We must keep them from choosing the easier, wide gate that leads to destruction! As we are in the Year of Mercy, we must realize it is completely merciless to just “give them what they want to simply keep them happy.” We must give them what they “need” so they may strive to be the saints they are called to be, and so they may know the joy that comes from living no longer for ourselves, but for Christ who lives in us … so they may live forever in heaven. This is the greatest good we can will for them.
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