When Parents Lie to Children – Excerpt from Original Faith by Paul M. Martin
This is the last in the recent parenting and book-themed posts that I’ve found myself doing lately. Today’s post is a guest post in the form of an excerpt from the book Original Faith: What Your Life is Trying to Tell You, by Paul M. Martin. Although between here and BellaOnline I’ve gotten myself a bit backed up in the book department, and haven’t been able to read Original Faith yet, I’ve been enjoying the discussions about spirituality on Paul’s blog, which I was introduced to by mutual friend Jan at Awake is Good.
Paul is a certified elementary school counselor with over twenty years experience in the public schools and has master’s degrees in religious studies and counseling. He has had a fascinating personal journey, including years of spiritual doubt, a spontaneous meditative experience that served as the genesis for Original Faith, and the onset of a debilitating condition that has currently left him homebound. You can read more about his story and his message here.
The following excerpt from Original Faith, entitled When Parents Lie to Children, discusses the fundamental spiritual misdirection that occurs when parents are only able to offer their children ‘conditional love’ – love dependent upon fulfilling the parent’s own ego needs.
A parent or other primary caretaker either does not love us or, far more often, does not express it clearly and consistently enough for us to be sure of it. An experienced lack of love from a parent is the fundamental source of the wounds that so many of us receive in childhood.
When this occurs, it is because our parent is somewhat ambivalent about his or her feelings for us. The parent doesn’t completely accept something about our real nature. We may not be smart enough or talented enough. We may be too physically rugged or assertive for a girl or too small and quiet for a boy. We may be too inhibited or not self-disciplined enough.
Our interests and aspirations may be wrong. We may not like working with our hands enough—or with our intellects. We may like music too much and not take enough interest in sports, or the other way around.
The real problem, of course, is that we are not sufficiently like our parents or their aspirations to satisfy their ego. Many of us spend years of our adult lives coming out from under the burden of this unnecessary baggage. As parents, this is a burden we can and should avoid passing on to our own children.
Having preconceived notions of what our children must be like in order to be fully acceptable to us is the equivalent of telling them a terrible lie. What our children hear is that they are not good enough – that something is wrong with or lacking in their very being.
Though it’s a lie, children readily believe it. With little or no knowledge of the outside world as a potential source of acceptance and approval, young children are in no position to realize, “This is only my parent’s hang-up. No reflection on me!” They believe the lie in the act of hearing it.
Viewing the abilities of our children as a means to satisfy our ego desires is unhealthy for parents as well as children. Indeed, outgrowing egoism is a good two-word summary of our primary developmental task as adults. And clearly it helps our children develop trust, confidence and self love when they see themselves with eyes unclouded by the illusion that that they were put on earth to be made in our image. It even becomes that much easier for them to take first steps toward standing in right relation to the greater truth that embraces us all.
By Paul Martin
The big sky smiled so wide!
“Why don’t you smile too?”
It seemed to say.
But Jessica was crying.
“I’m blue – don’t you even get it?”
“So am I” said Sky.
“I am the blue that’s light.”
And Jessica saw that Sky was right
And really was light-blue,
Like that half-unraveled crayon
She liked to use when she was drawing sky.
So she kicked off both her shoes
Right there on the grass
To feel another kind of blue.
– Excerpted from Original Faith: What Your Life is Trying to Tell You, by Paul M. Martin