Column name: Soliloquies of a secular heretic
I recall hearing a statement that a teenager made when a TV host asked her, “If there is one thing you could tell your parents, what would that be?”
“I would tell them,” she replied, with an unmistakable air of confidence, “to be more lenient with us because the times have changed!” She gave the last four words strong emphasis as if her mom and dad were either hard of hearing or hard of thinking.
It was a most revealing answer, if one is willing to read into it. At face value, it may have been predictable. Teenagers are likely to love freedom more than discipline. Yet it is far too simplistic to believe that teenagers are alert to change while their parents are insensitive to it. Is there any parent who is not on life support who is not keenly aware of change? We now have flat screen televisions, high speed Internet, on-line banking, ATM machines, iPads, same-sex marriage, bone marrow transplants, keyless entrances to cars, genetically modified food, cyberspace bullying, the Zika virus, physician-assisted suicide and the persistent threat of terrorism.
A person, parent or otherwise, could no more be inattentive to such changes than he or she could fail to notice the presence of rain during a thunderstorm. Change is merely a synonym for what’s happening. Both parents and their children face the same formidable problem of how to navigate through the stormy seas of incessant change. They need to assist, not oppose, each other.
The problem that vexes the teenager, however, is the very same problem with which adults wrestle. It does have to do with change, but not the kind of change that is going on. The problem is that God wants us, along with parents, to change. Since time immemorial, people have been quarreling with God. Why do you make things so difficult for us? Why is your road so “narrow”? Why can’t we have the freedom to do as we please? And why do you assail us with guilt?
The answer remains the same. Because God loves us, God wants our better self to emerge. And just as the artist or the inventor must take pains in order to perfect his or her finished product, so, too, we must suffer the pain of discipline and the inconvenience of self-denial in order to become who we truly are as children of God. The experience of guilt simply means that our own complicity in wrongdoing has put us on the wrong track. Guilt is part of our moral compass.
The teenager’s criticism of her parents is an image of humanity’s universal quarrel with God. It is fair to say that parents are in a better position, all things considered, to raise their teenagers than the latter are to raise their parents. The alternative view is one change that we should neither advance nor tolerate. No teenager aspires to being married one day and then allow his or her children to determine how they should be raised. The task of parenting belongs to the parents. More importantly, however, let us acknowledge that God is in a better position to advise us on how we are to live than we ourselves are.
Dr. Donald DeMarco is a Senior Fellow of Human Life International. He is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College in Cromwell, and a regular columnist for St. Austin Review. His latest works are available through Amazon.com.