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4 January 2019
For The Sake Of Our Children
When decades pass and we adults are memories to our children; when they are the nation’s elders and they look back at these astonishing days of moral confusion and cultural uncertainty, what will they say of us?
What memories of us will they recall? What values will they hold? What moral standards will we have taught them? How will they judge the moral legacy we bequeathed? What kind of persons will they say we were? What will they say of us?
* * * *
We all express our opinions and judgments -- perhaps not always judiciously or prudently, but we do not let our world pass us by without making comments and judgments and decisions. There’s a lot more to it, of course. But as we grow in age and wisdom as adults, we face truly serious challenges. So, as adults, we ought naturally to grow in our ability to make informed comments, mature judgments, morally sound decisions. But this doesn’t always happen, does it?
Let’s be clear: making wise, informed moral judgments is central to the natural order of adult life, as well as to the survival of our free society. Our children can err, make mistakes, mess things up. But we are their elders. We are supposed to be the decision makers, the wise ones, the moral exemplars.
We are the adults. We are supposed to make sound moral judgments and intelligent decisions. We are supposed to be decent, stable role models for our children. That’s why we’re here ….. isn’t it?
Without sound moral judgments, there are no clear differences. Without differences, there is no discussion or debate, no way to strain out intellectual blather and moral corruption from emergent truth and its essential corollaries. So, making morally sound, if difficult, decisions is central to our adult role in the lives of our young.
In fact, there are times when it is our profound moral obligation to judge other persons and events, then to make unpopular, difficult decisions to protect the moral character and physical safety of our children, the stability of our family, and the future of our community and our nation.That’s what adults do, isn’t it?
The Tyranny Of “Feelings”
These days, however, there is a grave problem.
Many people’s good judgment is fatally clouded by the tyranny of feelings over principles. Many people are in thrall to the seductive pitfall of “Feel-good-ism,” i.e., the politically correct, self-righteous sense of false virtue which obliterates logic, reality, moral clarity, basic courtesy, rational intelligence, social responsibility, mutual dialogue, fundamental science, revered tradition, facts of history, objective truth, authentic virtue -- and simple common sense.
Today, as a result of moral relativism, political correctness and a parade of false “freedoms,” many people meander into self-deluding extremes such as celebrating -- celebrating – abortion, exploiting transgendered youth, beating a broken drum for gender neutrality, on and on… and on.
If you wish an example of the wretched extremes to which our country has fallen, look at the pathetic, conscience-wrenching exploits of eleven-year-old Desmond Napoles, his parents and his fan base which appear on the internet.
Once again, we must ask ourselves: What values are we imparting to our children when our culture proposes such a reckless panoply of so-called “civil rights” and so readily and openly debases the innocence of our children -- in the name of freedom?
When we duck or deny our responsibility to judge maturely and wisely – with moral clarity and determination -- the result is coercive adherence to intolerant, often indecent, ideologies brutally imposed.
Sad to say, this occurs daily in our culture. It is evident, for starters, in the condemnatory rhetoric of politically correct adherents, or in government efforts to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide abortions.
Morality Defines Humanity
Every time we deal with another person -- even in the briefest encounter -- there’s always a moral component involved, always judgments of right and wrong behavior to be made, always issues of justice and prudence, of charity and integrity for which we are responsible and accountable … especially when the moral formation of our children is involved.
Sometimes, when we deal with children, we forget they are entitled to as much respect as adults. Parents, teachers and other adults may hold power and control over children, but this does not negate the right of all children to our respect.
True respect flows both ways. We cannot ask a child to respect us if we do not first exemplify by our behavior what respect is all about.If our children are ever to learn respect and moral probity, we must be their first teachers. Such learning is a lifetime endeavor and the war against moral probity is a lifetime struggle.
Respect for authority -- especially in the eyes of our children -- is tarnished by reckless, fact-less judgments. A moment of harsh, unmerited correction of a child by an impatient parent or a weary teacher can turn into a lesson in injustice and an abuse of power. Rashly judging a child’s behavior or motivation may deprive that youngster of friendship with someone who actually wishes to be a caring, trusted adult.
If we judge children rashly or substitute power for involvement or candid dialogue, we introduce them to needless adversity in which they stand defenseless. We teach them not to trust us but, instead, to develop strategies of precocious avoidance. A wordless war of wills often ensues, waged in silent hostility. Adult authority then loses moral authenticity; youthful cynicism is too often the result. Power is no substitute for influence.
Some children are resilient and can fluff it off -- but some youngsters are not so resilient. Too often, they do not forget. They remember -- to the disadvantage of us all.
Points To Ponder
- Most of the time, adults express opinions which are merely casual, superficial half-thoughts, off-the-cuff bon mots, throw-away observations, with no harm intended. Even so, it often happens that our children are listening … and their opinions and values are being formed.
- Cavalier comments, flippant and fleeting though they be, still contain a degree of meaning. Indeed, such comments often mirror our real concerns.
But when a child makes off-hand comments, these are often coded messages to us, conveying deeper questions, uncertainties and needs, such as the desire to be taken seriously, to be listened to, to be consulted -- to be treated with respect, to open both our hearts with candor and trust in one another, to express the love which binds us, one to the other.
- Human beings are vulnerable by nature, fickle by disposition and immature by instinct. Proof? We have all said and done things which are precipitous, harsh, uncivil, foolish. We have all expressed judgments which are hurtful and reckless. We are all capable of rudeness in word and deed. Even a loving marriage has its abrasive, regretful, episodes.
Adults can repair some of these mistakes ….. but of all the mistakes we may make, the most damaging are our rash judgments by which we hurt our children, by which we humiliate a child’s still-innocent spirit … or bring confusion and shame to the still-forming mind of a young person … or instill disillusionment in the heart of an innocent, if rambunctious, youngster … or send the message that intemperance and insensitivity are the rightful attributes of their elders.
- So, given our universal human vulnerabilities, all of us (some with reddened face and queasy stomach) have to admit that sometimes (not often, of course, but sometimes) we, too, have made unfounded, impulsive, prejudicial, unfair judgments about strangers, friends, even family and, yes, in-laws.
Thus, we adults do indeed share a host of human frailties and foibles --- but our greatest self-nourished blind-spot is our avoidance and denial of this fact.
Yet, despite our insensitivities, our failures and our glaring weaknesses, we are forgivably human, thanks to the endearing generosity of our Creator. However, the patience of our God is no excuse for insensitivity to the children amongst us.
It is the humble, wise adult who knows when to listen – and how to listen with eyes as well as ears; when to ask for clarity, when to be silent and listen again … and again … and yet again. We may have the answers … but, for a young person, simply asking us the question is often of far greater value.
The Challenges of Living
Finally, once again, we must ask: what are we teaching our children? Our society now fosters a precarious culture of death as never before in my lengthy lifetime. Our moral perspective has been badly – ever so badly -- distorted.
- Man-woman marriage and the value of life itself have all been obliterated under the rubric of “choice.”
- Aberrations of gender are enforced as “civil rights.”
- The traditional family is crushed beneath the weight of moral relativism and astonishing disregard for the centrality of the child.
- Children as young as ten are publicly celebrated as preening trans-sexual performers … and those who object are accused of “hate speech.”
- Rude, accusatory rhetoric floods America's public discourse as self-restraint evaporates.
- Character assassination, personal attacks and violent confrontations are now common.
- Pornography is now easily available to every child.
- And there is more we might mention …. but this is enough.
Despite all this, we adults still share God-given responsibility to be mature moral exemplars for our children. Nothing changes that obligation. In fact, it was for this very reason that Christ told His Apostles to let the children come unto Him. The Kingdom of Heaven, He said, is made of such spontaneous innocence, such utter lovability … and He foretold of a dreadful outcome for anyone who would harm a child.
It is the wise adult who understands that wisdom originates in the innocence and simplicity of a child’s unsullied soul. So, when our daily business is at last done and our soul becomes at rest, and we are in a spirit of gentle reverie, then may we calmly smile as we recall the antics and silliness of the children we have known and loved: the uncontrolled giggling of a ticklish child … the unbounded glee of a birthday youngster … the warm hugs and wet kisses and runny noses which bedtime brings … the utter helplessness of a newborn wriggling into Life and blessing us with our heart’s renewal …
… all these precious, grace-filled moments of unguarded love and spontaneous grandeur we share with our children; those extraordinary moments which bring us closer to Eternal Joy than life otherwise allows.
Then might we humbly ask Our Creator to guide us and enlighten us, that we may patiently protect our children from all evil … that we may guide and enlighten our children through this world, a world we have wrought for them …. and that we may always treasure all God’s beloved children whom He forever treasures and ever calls unto Himself -- including each and all of us.