Do You Feel Protected or Imprisoned?
"Protection or Imprisonment?" cartoon by David Hayward
OWN THIS PRINT
I am the parent of three adult children. I love them very much.
They are an adventurous bunch. They do things like climb mountains, skydive, swim with sharks, and other activities that worry me.
I've told them, ‚ÄúWhy can't you just get a regular, steady job, marry, have kids, and stay home all the time and keep yourself out of danger? Stop doing stupid things!‚Äù
I'm joking. Kinda.
As parents, we are afraid for our kids.
It's the same spiritually. Often, those in authority over us spiritually get upset when we stray into what they consider dangerous territory. Even though they are feeling deep and genuine concern and maybe even true fear for us, it comes out as an attempt to control us and keep us under wraps.
When they say something like this to us: ‚ÄúWhy are you straying away from the well-worn path that we absolutely know will get you to where we want you to go? Why are you putting your soul at risk? Why are you being so stupid? Don't you know the consequences of what you're doing?‚Äù
In other words, the root of it may be: ‚ÄúYou're going to Hell if you do that, and we love you too much to see you burn there forever! Please, stop being so stupid! Don't do that!‚Äù
You see, the attempt to control us is often fear based. But yes, they're wrong, even though they're genuinely concerned. They're not talking condescendingly or manipulatively or in a shaming way just because they're being mean. They're doing it to cause us enough intellectual doubt, emotional pain, and spiritual anxiety so that we'll correct ourselves and fall in line on the safe and secure path.
There's no formula for navigating the discussion when it happens. Like when my son's went skydiving, there was nothing I could say to deter them, and there was nothing they could say to allay my fears. What it took for them was gently affirming my concern, telling me that they were going to be okay, but if not they died doing something they loved, and I had to give them space, not judge them as being stupid or reckless, and letting them do their thing, trusting that they are the best drivers of their own lives.
But, no matter what, do not allow yourself to be imprisoned, even if it provides protection. That's no way to live.
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