Not only did they fight, they continued their fight in me. I inherited to some degree both my dad’s people orientation and my mum’s goal orientation. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why I would often commit myself to ambitious goals but found myself struggling to meet those goals because I stopped to hang out with the guys too often.
When I first began to realize that my “mum” part and my “dad” part were working at cross purposes within me, I became frustrated. (Of course dad and mum had no idea that their inclinations were warring within me.) It was much later that I began to appreciate the gifts that both had given me.
Dad taught me to appreciate friends. He taught me to value people for who they were and not for what they could do for you. He taught me to celebrate laughter, and the joy of humour. He taught me that when push came to shove, people came first.
Mum taught me to be focused. She taught me leadership. And discipline. She encouraged me to excel, to be the best that I could be. She showed me that sometimes in life, you have to make tough and difficult decisions.
I am grateful that God gave me my dad and mum, parents who loved me and wanted the best for me. I am grateful for the life lessons I received from the both of them.
Yes, I received some of their weaknesses too, and they still show. But at my best, I incorporate their best. I am grateful.
Dad passed away two years ago. I visit with mum whenever I can. We have never been closer.
I am now father of four boys, aged 15 to 22. I now know first hand the challenge of being a parent, the challenge of life itself. I now know a little of what my parents went through as they sought to raise me. I am even more grateful. And wonder what kind of legacy I am leaving my children.
I know the kinds of things that I do not want to leave, like my fiery temper. I already see some of that in no 2 son. We talk about it. He recognized this fault in grandpa and dad even as we observed its rudimentary manifestations in him.
Yes, we did talk about the fact that every strength has a shadow and sometimes people who feel deeply and passionately are also saddled with a temper. I can only tell no. 2 son that his dad is working on that part of his life and that dad is on the road to becoming more patient. (If you think I am bad now you should have met me when I was 30.) I can only pray that he will begin his own journey of managing his shadows earlier.
There is growing awareness that the journey to emotional well being must take seriously our history with our parents. Gordon T. Smith for example, writes:
“…we can only respond positively to current developments if we have already come to terms with our past and have come to resolution of the ways in which pain has intersected with our lives. For this, we must practice forgiveness.
We begin by forgiving our parents. This is fundamental. We have not all been grievously wronged. However no parent has been perfect; no parent has been all that we wish a parent to be. Consequently, we must forgive and in compassion let go of any resentment we might have against our father or mother.” [Courage and Calling, p.148]
I am not suggesting that we all go into therapy but I have come to terms that a large part of growing up is to become more aware of how our parents have impacted us both for bad and for good. Indeed I now hope that my children will learn to forgive me for the ways I have failed them.
The call to forgive our parents will not be heard easily by some of us. Some of us have very deep wounds from our parents. Some of us continue to be wounded by our parents. Some of us continue to be wounded by our parents even after they have passed on.
For some of us, forgiving our parents is too hard if not for the hope that comes from our heavenly Father. I suspect that for some of us, it is only in the safe and sure embrace of Abba Father that we find the courage and the strength to forgive our earthly parents.
For some reason however, Smith and others who talk about dealing with parental baggage, don’t seem to talk much about the bright side of our parental legacy. In some ways our parents may have failed us but for many of us, our parents have blessed us as well. Mine did.
So yes, there is a place to forgive our parents, but I think we also need to thank them, and that too is a key part of our emotional development.
As the writer of Proverbs reminds us:
“Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Acquire truth and do not sell it – wisdom, and discipline, and understanding The father of a righteous person will rejoice greatly; whoever fathers a wise child will have joy in him. May your father and your mother have joy; may she who bore you rejoice.” [Proverbs 23:22-25 NET]
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan