Sep 2, 2010
A school’s headmistress called me one day. It was about a girl in the 4th Standard, whose behaviour at best was described by her teachers as weird and, at worst, mad. Soon I met the girl’s parents as the father was eager to find out what was wrong with his daughter.
This girl’s brother was studious and the father’s pride. The girl was ‘okay’ but the father wanted more from her. He had ambitious plans for her higher studies. He also had a dream that someday she would be married into a well-to-do family. This is quite typical of any parent, but so much was his zeal that it led to verbal and physical abuses for any wrong she did. In her short schooling years, she had received little or no love from her father – and when she did, it was purely conditional. Gradually she began to dread her studies and her father. The girl was like a pressure cooker on the boil, with a malfunctioning valve that would not allow her fears, anxieties and even anger to escape. It escaped almost involuntarily at school. The girl would hit, jab, poke, pinch and push other girls without any provocation. Further, the girl hardly smiled and looked wide-eyed at everyone.
Reminding him of her present condition, I begged the girl’s father to take his own time to ponder over a simple question: going the way she was going, would his daughter become anything for anyone by the time she reached adulthood? Two minutes later, he cried tears that came down like rain. In my heart I instantly knew that the girl could be saved. It was only forty-five minutes later that he was able to regain his composure and the first question that he mumbled was, “How can I make amends?”
I explained to him the need to communicate to his daughter how sorry he was; that he would never hurt her; that he would love her and make up for all the years that he not been good to her; and to show it in action. The idea was to make her feel wanted and loved again. I also reminded him not to create any time lines as it was an ongoing process. After they left, I prayed. The father’s heart had taken a u-turn for the better and, fortunately, the transformation in the girl began to show in less than a month. The Headmistress felt that it was a miracle. The only miracle here was the father’s acknowledgement of his failure and the willingness to make reparations.
We live in a world that undeniably is governed by the universal law of cause and effect. Simple said, if a ball is thrown at a wall, it will bounce back. For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. It also means that if you a see a ball coming at you, it has happened because someone threw it first. This is the physical aspect of the law. In chemistry, if we mix one acid with another, the effect is not less than obnoxious and even dangerous.
Our lives – mind, body and spirit - are governed by the same law, but with effects that may or may not be proportionate to the causes. Today’s diagnostic machines are capable of looking at very small details in our body and they have confirmed what our grandparents would tell us: “Child, don’t take tension, it is not good for you.” While there is an effect, it may not be immediate. One effect also has the potential to cause another, and over a period of time, the original cause may even become masked. That is why so many times we are left wondering what went wrong. Further, we don’t know in what manner and to what degree the effect will be. In the girl’s case the signs became clearly visible when she reached the 4th Standard, although early signs may have gone undetected - as it happens in many, many cases.
We have already observed and commented, perhaps a hundred times, that the world is growing from bad to worse. I agree, but how much part we parents have played in this deteriorating scenario? is a question that needs to be honestly examined. We can easily blame their friends if our sons become drug addicts, but how many of us are willing to ask ourselves if we were in any way responsible for pushing them towards it? After all, not all kids do drugs because others do.
A lot of my friends ask me to write articles deploring our falling political and moral standards. Don’t we have enough of that already? If we spend more time educating parents on the potential effects their actions have on their children, and eventually the world, I think we can then say that we have played our part. Remember, it all starts from our homes. Sure enough there is peer pressure, but children who are honed spiritually at homes, have a less chance of falling. Even if they do fall, they have a greater chance of recovery.
Our children are not being treated like children any more. We want our children to do the same things that we see other children do on television. The same goes for a teenager who is studying engineering, or medicine. I was in a chat with a professor of medicine of a very famous educational institution in Manipal and he told me that in any given year, nearly 20% to 30% of the students studying medicine never wanted to. I have little doubt that the same holds true for engineering students, or any other stream. No wonder we witness so many students seeking escape in drugs, alcohol and – tragically – even suicide. In the seventies we barely heard of students committing suicide, and when it happened it was always with those studying for degrees. The present scenario is witness to students of 10th standard committing suicide – even before their exams!
Usually the thought of death scares anyone; but, the truth is we are living in a world where parental pressure is so enormous that a child prefers to face death than life. It is also important to remember that enormous pressure for one may not be enormous for the other. We all have certain patterns in the way we live and behave. Any sign that does not fit the child’s usual pattern should be enough to alert any parent. Not that every shift in pattern should cause alarm bells to ring, but for parents whose primary objective is the mental and emotional welfare of their children, playing ignorant is not the answer.
Our stresses have other outcomes. Look at migraine alone. A research done in the USA several years ago among women revealed that a huge percentage of women got the attack days before they knew they had to visit their mother-in-law.
If you have tried every possible treatment for that hypertension, including diets, medicines, and several other “therapies” that this commercial world offers – and the rising pressure is still not relenting - then perhaps the underlying cause could be the anger and deep resentment that you may be holding onto. And that calls for “spiritual” therapy.
Discontented couples go through every possible book on “the chemistry of love,” “how to re-ignite and re-energize your married life,” “why men behave the way they do and why women behave the way they do,” – only to find some day that all that was needed was a simple apology for something that was said fifteen years ago! This is not an overstatement - some of them remain unhappy till death does them apart. Two maladies are at work here: Sloth of the Spirit and Sloth of the Will. Remember what the holy scriptures say: DO NOT LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON YOUR ANGER. That goes for our hypertension, too.
The holy scriptures have put the entire law on cause and effect plainly: WE REAP WHAT WE SOW. Are these words an alert of impending disaster, or words of encouragement? Either ways, the words are extremely beneficial if understood and applied. The holy scriptures have also sounded a warning: "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind." And because God has spoken, this law – abd any law written by God - applies to every single person on this planet, or beyond it. Civilian or criminal laws may not catch up with us, but God’s laws do.
No matter how our faith might be, not in the next billion years of asking is God going to give us grapes, if we have planted a mango sapling. And, if we already know that, then we must also know that mere planting of a sapling is not enough; we are still required to nurture it into adulthood. The same is equally true for us humans.
How many of us are guilty of this statement: “Son, it is a cut-throat world out there and, if you want to succeed, you need to become a cut-throat”! We may not say it in exactly the same words, but we nonetheless imbibe it by our words and actions.
I have borrowed something that I once saw on the wall of a clinic. I was quite taken by its TRUTH and I hope parents, too, will:
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, he learns to be guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
HE LEARNS TO FIND LOVE IN THE WORLD.
I am reminded of a true story, which I would like to share: Faced with the untimely death of his younger son, even though several years had passed, the father’s sorrow became unbearable for his wife. While he sought alcohol, his wife moved out. Fortunately, by the time he had lost everything and his eventually his life, his older son had reached college. There his basic needs were met by a relative. The older son went on to become a very successful man and a model citizen of his community. In an interview, he was asked how he turned out to be the person that he was when he had gone through so much turmoil during his childhood. The young man answered, “All I remember is that every night my father would come to my room, run his fingers through my hair, kiss me on my forehead and whisper that he loved me dearly. I have always felt his love in me.”
We are a product of what goes not just into our minds, but also our hearts. If every parents’ objective is to see their children happy, then why lose focus? We may have heard stories of rich people who have led very lonely lives. Does that mean that happiness and wealth cannot go together? It can, but only if an individual retains his capacity to love and receive love; and that is possible if he has been enriched by love.
As long as we love our children unconditionally, then and only then is there hope for the future.