DISINTERESTED LOVE IN PARENTS
LOVE seems to resume all the obligations of parents toward their
offspring; certainly, it directs all their actions, and they fulfil
these obligations ill or well according to the quality of that love.
But love is not sufficient; love is of two kinds, the right and the
wrong; nothing good comes of an affection that is not properly ordered.
In itself, parental love is natural, instinctive; therefore it is not
meritorious to any high degree. But there is much merit in the proper
kind of parental affection, because it requires sacrifice.
There may be too little love, to the neglect and misfortune of
children. There may be too much, to their spoiling and utter
perversion. Again there may be affection that is partial, that singles
out one for caresses and favors to the exclusion of the others; hence
discord and dissensions in the family. The first two forms of
inordinate affection are equally bad, while the last combines both and
contains the double evil thereof. It is hard to say which is the worse
off, the child that receives too much or the one that receives too
little of that love which to be correct should avoid extremes.
Parents are apt, under the sway of natural affection, to overlook the
fact that God has rights over the children, and that the welfare and
interests of the children must not be left outside all consideration:
herein lies the root of all the evil that befalls the family through
degenerate love. What is commonly, but improperly, called love is
either pagan fondness or simon-pure egotism and self-love.
When a vain person looks into a mirror, she (if it be a "she") will
immediately fall in love with the image, because it is an image of
herself. And a selfish parent sees in his child, not another being, but
himself, and he loves it for himself. His affection is not an act of
generosity, as it should be, but an act of self-indulgence. He does not
seek to please another, he seeks to please himself. His love,
therefore, is nothing but concentrated vanity--and that is the wrong
Such a parent will neglect a less favored child, and he will so far
dote on the corporal and physical object of his devotion as to forget
there is a soul within. He will account all things good that flatter
his conceit, and all things evil that disturb the voluptuousness of his
attachment. He owns that child, and he is going to make it the object
of his eternal delights, God's rights and the child's own interests to
the contrary notwithstanding. This fellow is not a parent; he is a pure
animal, and the cub will, one day make good returns for services
A parent with a growing-up family, carefully reared and expensively
educated, will often lay clever plans and dream elaborate dreams of a
golden future from which it would almost be cruelty to awake him. He
sees his pains and toils requited a thousand fold, his disbursements
yielding a high rate of interest and the name his children bear--his
name--respected and honored. In all this there is scarcely anything
blameworthy; but the trouble comes when the views of the Almighty fail
to square with the parental views.
Symptoms of the malady then reveal themselves. Misfortunes are met with
complaints and murmurings against Providence and the manner in which it
runs the cosmic machine. Being usually self-righteous, such parents
bring up the old discussion as to the justice of the divine plan by
which the good suffer and the wicked prosper in this world. Sorrow in
bereavement is legitimate and sacred, but when wounded love vents its
wrath on the Almighty, the limit is passed, and then we say: "Such love
is love only in name, love must respect the rights of God; if it does
not, it is something else." The Almighty never intended children to be
a paying investment; it belongs to Him to call children to Himself as
well as parents themselves, when He feels like it. Parents who ignore
this do not give their children the love the latter have a right to
Intelligent and Christian parents, therefore, need to understand the
true status of the offspring, and should make careful allowance for
children's own interests, both material and spiritual, and for the
all-supreme rights of God in the premises. Since true love seeks to do
good, in parents it should first never lose sight of the child's soul
and the means to help him save it. Without this all else is labor lost.
God frowns on such unchristian affection, and He usually sees to it
that even in this world the reaping be according to the sowing.
The rearing of a child is the making or unmaking of a man or woman.
Love is the motive power behind this enterprise. That is why we insist
on the disinterestedness of parental love, before touching on the
all-important question of education.
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