"I am not aware of
anything against myself; but I am not thereby acquitted" (I Cor. 4:4). "I know
that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I
cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I
do" (Rom. 7:18-19). Why do I do what I do, as I do it?
We often hear he is so unlike his
brother. One is calm and quiet, while the other is a pain in the neck. At other times we
identify a person with an ancestor. Why is that we are like our ancestor and not like our
brother? St. Paul in his writings quoted above, feels confused. In Catholic theology we
say it is original sin, something that we contracted from our First Parents and come to us
through our parents. This is an attempt to give an answer.
There is an interesting incident in the
first book of the Bible, Genesis, chapter 30: 31-36: Laban and Jacob wished to divide the
livestock, not that which is there, but those which will be born henceforth. Jacob agrees
that only those that are of definite colours will be his share. He manipulates the
external conditions in front of the mating animals and surprisingly he gets the kids with
colours that he wants. Leaving aside the argument if the animals have feelings, we could
conclude from this that the external situations of the mating parents could influence the
kid in the womb. If this is so for animals, it should be more for human beings, who have
greater degree of feelings.
This may be the point that David puts
forward when he says: In sin I was born, a sinner was I conceived. May be we prefer not to
analyze this verse from Psalm 50. I would replace the word 'sin' with 'hurt' and say: 'I
am hurt when I was conceived and hurt when I was born'.
We often hear parents tell their child
that it should bring name to the family and keep the name of the family. It should help
and look after them when they get old. We can ask ourselves: do the parents want the child
for its own sake or for their sake? We may say we are the product of selfishness and not
of love. Are we not very selfish, despite our denying it? That is perhaps what the
Catholics call 'original sin'. I am not loved, I am not wanted.
However by the very fact that I am
conceived in my mother's womb, means I am a winner. In the first race that we had in the
womb of the mother, competing with nearly 3-4 mln. (of my brothers and sisters) I
succeeded to reach the goal and be a human being. So each one of us is a winner, by the
very fact that we are. The child feels from the first moment of its being conceived though
it may not understand. We grow and are comfortable or not, according to our mother's
health, feelings, love and concern she receives from the first moment of our being. The
attitude of the mother makes impression on the child. Everything is recorded. Nothing is
We have situations like attempted
abortions, unexpected baby, unwanted pregnancy, at an unwanted time, child of unwanted
sex, children orphaned by the death of the parents (specially the mother) and abandoned by
them, and so on. The child born in these conditions could be hurt all through its life.
Don't we tell the child it should look after us when we grow old? It is our only hope.
Then comes the birth that is said to be
the most tragic journey a person makes in his/her life. The first moments or hours after
our birth have their seal one us, to remain with us throughout our life. And we continue
to accumulate more and more positive and negative impressions. This is despite all people
trying to show us love and concern in their own way. Unfortunately we collect more of the
bad, hurtful, negative feelings than the good and positive ones. The child of even the
most loving parents can feel not loved. We cannot escape the burden of the pain that one
receives not only from ones parents, but also from the society, but also from other people
at home, the neighbours, teachers, leaders of the church, etc.
The child in the earlier stage survives
not only the milk of the mother, but more on the love and care it receives from its
people. "If you baby a baby when he's a baby, you won't have to baby him the rest of
his life" (Thomas Harris, I'm O.K., You're O.K., Cox and Wyman, Great Britain,
p. 149). Then there is the first feelings of I am not o.k. I can't move, I can't help
myself, I cry. It is said the child's answering the call of nature also is the gift of the
child and if the parents are hard on the baby and punish for dirtying their new rug, the
child can learn to withhold stools and suffer from constipation later in life. Does it not
tire the parents to train the lonely child in the family to be generous?
What happens when a parent or loving
person calls abusive names to the little one? Transactional Analysis would say, it is the
command of the parent to the child. It is a script. It is written on the child. If, for
instance, you call your child donkey, thief, stupid, and so on, the child feels he has to
be one, because so the loving person has called him. Smaller the child, deeper are these
negative impressions. It could be also identifying the child with an ancestor. How far the
child decides to be like the one with whom he is identified is difficult to judge. One
example would be to the point. John would always remember his grand father having died on
the feast of the Holy Trinity, when he was 9 years of age. He remembered it often. This
child was identified with this grand father for his being gentle. Is it fate or script
that John died on Trinity Sunday at the age of 65? I was curious to know at what age his
grand father had died and checked in the parish record. It may be surprising to see that
he also had died at that same age.
It is said: spare the rod, spoil the
child. The child has an untiring zeal to experiment his new capacity. Thus crawling,
walking, standing, climbing, pulling things, worse still imitating the others. If it does
not do it, it will not grow; it will be immature. If you hit the child for breaking the
cup, which you had kept, on the stool, the child will wonder what is happening, and might
become retrogressive. Should we beat and punish the child when it makes any mistake? Do
you beat the child because you were beaten when you were a child? Can't we tell the child
that certain of his acts pain and hurt you and others? Not to go forward is to go back, in
our human growth.
Actions speak louder than words. A mother
was very much disturbed that she often beats her little child of 2 years for small little
mistakes. Later she regretted and asked pardon of the child. I asked her how was she
treated as a child. Hers was a painful childhood. She was an orphaned child and her aunt
who reared her beat and punished her severely. And this mother just repeats what she was
taught. It is true we can spoil an undisciplined child. Firmness is not aggression. There
are limits. We should not be over strict and tyrannical.
Character is not hereditary nor is it
imposed. The little one is to be formed, reformed and educated gradually and slowly. It is
done both verbally and non-verbally. The non-verbal messages are stronger than the
non-verbal ones. There is no need to tell the child not to fight, hit the others, not to
steal, while that is the thing that it sees. The child may not say, but observes and
records. "We are molded and remolded by those who have loved us; and though the love
may pass, we are, nevertheless, their work, for good or for bad" (F. Mauriac). Today
our parents give their children everything except love and time. They are more concerned
about the future security of the child, and not the need of today. Aren't there many
families, where the child may not see the father for days on end. He is away before the
child is up and is back at night when the child is asleep. "'Live to work' rather
than 'work to live' seems to have become the new mantra at the work place' commented the Times
of India on July 5, 2000.
"I am what I am because of those who
loved me or refused to love me". But even the child of the best loving parents can
feel not loved. We have two identities: Divine and human. We are the image of God. We are
the likeness of God. Humanly we are the children of our parents. And the love and attitude
of our parents mould us most and make us what we are.
There are situations beyond our control.
The second child of the same sex as the first, in a family can feel not loved, accepted,
etc. and become very tense and competitive with the elder one at home and also with the
whole society later on. We promise the child good things, or even to hit or punish. Is it
not a lie, in far as the child is concerned? The 'best in any concrete situation is
identical with the 'least evil'. There is a certain evil in all lying, because it tends to
break down the basis of trustworthiness (I'm O.K., 162). We give so many orders,
do's and don'ts. The child hears the opposite of all this. Strange. Is it surprising?
We identify the child with the ancestors.
Let us suppose John is like his father Paul. Paul is drunkard. We tell John not to be like
his father. And all people speak of John as Paul. The child feels permitted to do as its
father did. Is it a far-fetched argument that John will be like his father? It seems not.
(Cf. Hari Kumar, K.N., Neevu mattu nimma vyaktithwa, Kannada, Prajavani, 1999,
As children are not credited with having
a mind or personality of their own, in any difficult behaviour a child shows, most often,
correction is done through physical punishment ... with fewer children, the parents direct
their energies - both positive and negative, disproportionately at the children' (Krpa K,
Psychological disorders, Twin Hearts, Vol. 1, issue 12). By far the impact
of all consumerism is on children.
We are in a more, complicated situation
than a few years ago, the broken families. We cry, mourn and lament at the death or our
parents, whatever be their age and health conditions. Then why don't we understand that
our child too needs both of its parents? The children in the divorced families, the abused
children, the battered children; who could be more prone to suicide, difficult to
understand? It is not possible to teach non-violence with violence.
We have the doctrine of original sin. May
be we are unable to explain it clearly. The above explanation gives a clue. Jesus is born
without original sin and he is the perfect man. In baptism we are entered in union with
Him, we are oned with Him. We become the members of the one Christian family. We
tell the child at baptism that we love it despite all the odds of its birth, and it has to
be like Jesus, the perfect Man.
Let the little children come to me,
because the Kingdom of God is of such as these. St.Teresa of Jesus insists very much that
self-knowledge is very important for prayer. She covers a number of pages to explain her
own childhood, though she begins it at a later stage. Sr. Ruth Burrows begins her
autobiography with the words "I was born into this world with a tortured sensitivity'
(Before the Living God, p. 5). St. Augustine cried: Noverim te et noverim me. (May
I know you and may I know myself).
Fr. Walter Lobo, OCD,
Shellim, Loliem-Polem post