My first exposure to Bishop Robert Barron was a video series, “Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues.”
A year or few have passed, but what continues to stick with me is this: I’ll be on the first of the seven terraces of purgatory and that’s as far down as you can be without being a late repentant or excommunicate!
Simply put, my root sin is the worst of them all- pride.
As St. Augustine deftly pointed out, “It was pride that turned angels into devils…” Ouch.
My pride is most evident in my attempts to raise “perfect” children. Whenever a well meaning person compliments my parenting as evidenced by my well-behaved children, I am quick to respond, “It’s not because of me, but most certainly in spite of me!” and I truly believe that because I am consumed with my shortcomings and failures. BUT this statement is really one of false humility because if one were to actually analyze my actions, reactions, and interactions with my children, one could easily conclude that I believe that who they are and what they do is always because of me.
Thus, when my kids do the things that all kids do, like leave towels on the bathroom floor, eat food in bedrooms (and stuff the wrappers in a corner), leave a minefield of Lego across the carpet, “forget” to finish an assignment, or ignore household chores, I take it as a personal failure.
I tie my self-worth to their behavior and take their missteps as proof that I am failing as a parent. That’s pride for you- it’s all about me.
But here’s a thought. There are some great people in this world that came from terrible childhood situations. Conversely, there are model parents who, despite their best efforts, have children who deliberately choose a path away from light and truth. So if the worst parents can produce the best children and vice versa, is it logical for me to tie my worthiness directly to the behavior of my children? They have their own free will and shall be held accountable for their own choices.
My job, therefore, is to model good behavior, correct them with love when necessary, and pray, pray, pray.
My goal as a parent cannot be to successfully produce saintly children, but to model saintly behavior myself. Despite every effort, I cannot control their every action, but I most certainly can control mine. And shifting the focus to controlling my own behavior rather than attempting to control theirs is a necessity. It is the difference between being a parent and being a dictator.
And given the choice, I’d rather emulate the Mother Mary than Joseph Stalin.
As Bishop Barron stresses in his video series, “Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues,” root sin must be countered by a deliberate effort to foster its polar opposite virtue. To counteract pride, one must practice humility. So perhaps the best place to start would be to stop viewing my children as a mirror of myself (where their behavior is a reflection of my parenting skills) and instead view them as a window to God, who’s image they are ultimately made in.