07 May The Responsibility | Part B’
It is only through a vast amount of experience and a lengthy and successful maturation that we gain the capacity to see the world and our place in it realistically, and thus are enabled to realistically assess our responsibility for ourselves and the world.
There is much that parents can do to assist their children in this maturation process. Opportunities present themselves thousands of times while children are growing up when parents can either confront them with their tendency to avoid or escape responsibility for their own actions or can reassure them that certain situations are not their fault. But to seize these opportunities, as I have said, requires of parents sensitivity to their children’s needs and the willingness to take the time and make the often uncomfortable effort to meet these needs. And this in turn requires love and the willingness to assume appropriate responsibility for the enhancement of their children’s growth.
Conversely, even above and beyond simple insensitivity or neglect, there is much that many parents do to hinder this maturation process. Neurotics, because of their willingness to assume responsibility, may be quite excellent parents if their neuroses are relatively mild and they are not so overwhelmed by unnecessary responsibilities that they have scant energy left for the necessary responsibilities of parenthood. Character-disordered people, however, make disastrous parents, blissfully unaware that they often treat their children with vicious destructiveness. It is said that “neurotics make them-selves miserable; those with character disorders make every-one else miserable.” Chief among the people characterdisordered parents make miserable are their children. As in other areas of their lives, they fail to assume adequate responsibility for their parenting. They tend to brush off their children in thousands of little ways rather than provide them with needed attention. When their children are delinquent or are having difficulty in school, character-disordered parents will automatically lay the blame on the school system or on other children who, they insist, are a “bad influence” on their own children. This attitude, of course, ignores the problem. Be-cause they duck responsibility, character-disordered parents serve as role models of irresponsibility for their children. Finally, in their efforts to avoid responsibility for their own lives, character-disordered parents will often lay this responsibility upon their children: “You kids are driving me nuts,” or “The only reason I stay married to your father [mother] is because of you kids,” or “Your mother’s a nervous wreck because of you,” or “I could have gone to college and been a success if it weren’t for having to support you.” In such ways these parents in effect say to their children, “You are responsible for the quality of my marriage, my mental health and my lack of success in life.” Since they lack the capacity to see how inappropriate this is, the children will often accept this responsibility, and insofar as they do accept it, they will be-come neurotic. It is in such ways that characterdisordered parents almost invariably produce character-disordered or neurotic children. It is the parents themselves who visit their sins upon their children.
It is not simply in their role as parents that characterdisordered individuals are ineffective and destructive; these same character traits usually extend to their marriages, their friend-ships and their business dealings-to any area of their existence in which they fail to assume responsibility for its quality. This is inevitable since, as has been said, no problem can be solved until an individual assumes the responsibility for solving it. When character-disordered individuals blame someone else-a spouse, a child, a friend, a parent, an employer-or something else-bad influences, the schools, the government, racism, sexism, society, the “system”-for their problems, these problems persist. Nothing has been accomplished. By casting away their responsibility they may feel comfortable with themselves, but they have ceased to solve the problems of living, have ceased to grow spiritually, and have become dead weight for society. They have cast their pain onto society. The saying of the sixties (attributed to Eldridge Cleaver) speaks to all of us for all time: “If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.”
The Road Less Traveled
Image : the submarine museum in the Canary Islands ...