This morning Pete and I were conversing in the kitchen about our summer plans. One option we have been tossing around is a summer camp for families. Our friends just rave about this camp out in the middle of nowhere Ohio. “It is perfect for the entire family, and everyone will have tons of fun.” I am all in for fun! At this point in the conversation I hear my oldest, Megan voicing her opinion, “No way.”
Hmmm. Pete looked like he was ready to give in because of her hesitation.
“I’ll tell you what, Megan, you give me your reasons written on a piece of paper and I will consider your opinion. BUT they better be good ones, because the rest of the family wants to go.” I figured this was a good way for her to write down the reasons and see for herself why she is hesitating about this camp experience.
Fr. Emmerich Vogt OP*, a priest who spoke to our marriage group the other night, gave us some great insight on love, “Don’t confuse pity with love.”
That phrase stuck out to me when Megan brought up her complaints. I felt sorry for her that she wasn’t as excited as we all were, but I also am not going to let her opinion rule the household. I pitied her, but I love her more. I love her so much that I am willing to let her squirm about her decision that camp is horrible. I love her so much that I am willing to let God work on her heart to see that He wants us to have this time together as a family. I love her so much that I want her to break through the concept that things that seem uncool really sometimes turn out to be pretty darn fun.
Pity versus love. This is a concept that we all struggle with as parents. We want our kids to fit in at school. We desire our kid to have a happy childhood. We strive for our kids to have the best of everything: the best toys, the best phone, the best house, and the best friends. Yet, when we do this aren’t we just delaying the inevitable? Eventually our kids will have to deal with feeling uncomfortable, feeling unloved, and feeling left out. When we spend our days trying to make sure our kids fit in, we are not teaching them autonomy. We are creating unhealthy, unrealistic lives.
In the book of Luke 16, you find the story of the rich man and the poor man. The rich man goes to hell when he dies and asks that God have pity on him. “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus (the poor man) to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” God explains to the rich man that he received good things in his past life and Abraham received nothing. Abraham is receiving goodness now, and the rich man who spent his entire life accumulating riches and living life selfishly is now in hell.
The rich man realizes that his entire family will end up with him in hell and asks God to go tell his brothers that this will happen to them if they don’t repent. God explains that He is with the brothers just like He was with the rich man, but the rich man ignored God. The brothers may choose the same path, that is up to them.
Pity versus love. God loves us all so much that He gives us the freedom to choose Him. We all love freedom right? We all like to make up our own minds, right?
My daughter feels the same way, and it is my responsibility to teach her how to handle those hard choices in life. Life is not pretty. Things will happen and we will be forced to make difficult choices. We shouldn’t always choose the easy path because it is comfortable and what we know. Sometimes we have to choose the difficult path and allow God to guide us.
Love doesn’t always feel good. It is hard to be a parent and recognize when you should make the decision versus when your young adult child should make the decision. Sometimes we have to dig through the feelings of pity to get to the discipline of love.
Fr Emmerich Vogt OP has a fabulous website at http://www.12-step-review.org/index.html