Sometimes I am amazed by the way current societal trends make their way into the hearts of people who should know better–people like me–and then society’s sickness infects our families, and then, because family is the core of civilization, that sickness becomes a permanent change in society.
And it’s worse than it used to be. “Society” used to imply localized cultures, trends, and mores, but more and more “society” has worldwide connotations. Societal “norms” have become worldwide standards of behavior.
Sadly, our standard of behavior is downright selfish!
Selfishness is a pandemic sickness that has made an insidious creep into our homes. If we are not careful, it will complete its cyclical course, and our families will set the standard for permanent worldwide societal change.
We see the selfishness in all its flagrant fury metastasized like a terminal cancer throughout the governments of the world. Leaders don’t want to lead, they want to rule. Law-makers don’t want to protect rights, they want to control rights. Public servants don’t want to serve, they want to dominate. Men and women who have been entrusted with the responsibility of establishing justice and ensuring domestic tranquility have, shockingly, been acting more out of self-interest than public interest. But is it really that shocking? Or have they simply been acting like men and women outside of government?
For as long as I can remember, men and women have been clamoring for self-fulfillment. Women expect men to treat them special, but not in the way that kindles affection and builds families. They expect men to be subservient and treat women not as equals, but as superiors. And, since chivalry is clearly dead, men expect to be free of responsibility and honor and free to treat women as “special” tools to be used for base desires. It’s an equality of selfishness.
But it’s a selfishness that is NOT without place in our homes. In fact, our families have sopped up society’s selfishness like a sponge.
Parents see children as possessions that can be cast aside or destroyed when inconvenient. Mothers view embryonic children as invaders of their bodies and proclaim that it is their choice whether that invader should live or die. They are without the natural affection that motivates a woman to change her life in an effort to protect her unborn child. Fathers feel free to abandon their seed once it’s planted instead of feeling responsible to nurture it and help it grow. Once children are born they are often regarded as burdens to be borne, and they are dragged along through every cesspool and mire their parents desire to explore. Or they are seen as trophies to be paraded about or displayed in a glass case like spectacular creatures in a menagerie.
Children are not untouched by the cancer of selfishness. They see parents as the dispensers of wants and wishes, and they are ungrateful when their wants are supplied. They make demands and feel abused when those demands are not met. They do not speak with respect when addressing their parents, nor do they listen to and heed their parents’ counsel.
All around us disrespect and disinterest abound and selfishness rages like wild fury through our hearts. There are some who fight it, and even some who have conquered it, but none of us are unaffected.
It started in the era of Civil Rights and “free love,” or maybe all the burning dope caught the wind and spread the selfishness like a wild fire. It worked the way insidiousness always works; it took something good and necessary and intermingled it with something destructive. Civil Rights was the good and necessary part. All of God’s children, regardless of race, creed, or socio-economic standing, are of equal worth in the eyes of God, and should be in the eyes of mankind as well. It was necessary for brave men and women to fight for political recognition of equal worth. But that fight for freedom from unjust oppression somehow morphed into a fight for freedom from responsibility. “Free love” wasn’t about love at all, and it certainly wasn’t free. It was about changing a culture of traditional family values into a culture of self-fulfillment, and the cost so far has been exponential because the degree of selfishness has been exponential. The parents taught the children, by example, to be selfish, and as children usually do, the children “improved” upon the methods of the parents and taught their children to be even more selfish than themselves.
So what is the solution? What is the retardant for the flames, the antidote to the poison, the cure to the disease of selfishness? It is love.
The definition, as given by Jeff A. Benner, of the ancient Hebrew verb that is translated as the English verb “love” is “to provide and protect what is given as a privileged gift.” Love, to the ancient Hebrews, was not an abstract idea or feeling, it was “an intimacy of action and emotion.” That is the love that will cure what ails society-a love that doesn’t just sit and feel warm in our hearts, but that moves us to act in the best interest of others, and it MUST BEGIN IN OUR FAMILIES.
One of the most difficult things I have had to do as a mother is to push away my own hurt, quiet my own pride, and tenderly, lovingly hold a raging child in my arms. It is incredibly difficult to affectionately embrace someone who is hitting, biting, and screaming hateful words, but it is the only sure way I’ve found of putting a peaceful end to a tantrum. And I believe it is the only way to break the cycle of selfishness that is raging in ever-increasing destructiveness throughout society.
The ancient Hebrews saw love as “an intimacy of action and emotion.” They also saw a mother as “the one who binds the family together.” If we bind the family together, and the family is the heart of the world, then we hold the world in our hands. Right now the world is having a raging tantrum of selfishness, and it is time for us, as mothers, to give the world a hug and hold on until the tantrum stops. The world will kick us, hit us, and call us names. It will hate us, call us worthless, and try to destroy us. We must continue to hold on until our children know that we truly love them. We must continue to hold on until our children share love and selflessness with the world, and until that selflessness becomes the new societal trend. We can change the world one child at a time. It can–it MUST–begin with us.