Everyone in this city seems to just float from place to place. Work, gym, lunch breaks, meetings, appointments, dates, activities. Observe people long enough and you’ll become fascinated…at least, I certainly do. One does not (and should not) observe to cast judgment. If you look beyond the outward presentation that others put before you, what you discover is a child. A little boy, a little girl, who’s been molded.
Clay remains clay no matter which way it’s handled; just because you may mold it a certain way or in a particular pattern doesn’t mean that the clay becomes something else entirely. Depending on how creative our minds are, how skilled we are with our hands, we can (or cannot) create something beautiful out of the original lump of clay we’re working with. Whether the task of fashioning a masterpiece from clay was either accomplished or neglected, everyone was given the exact same piece. If it was formed into a chamber pot (or remained an ordinary lump), it’s still just clay. It was shaped (or not) by us. In another sense, the clays “fate” was in our hands. Literally and figuratively.
Consider children the clay and their childhood the potter. Little boys and girls float around overwhelming cities in adult clothes, needing mommy and daddy for every big decision they’re faced with. Some of these children would never outwardly admit that they could use some advice from their dads, because they’re still angry at him. Some of the males who drown themselves in work-related responsibilities are still hurting over their father (or mother) emasculating them as a child. His pent-up anger and frustration are misdirected towards his wife and kids. The females you see wobbling around in their high heels, briefcase and coffee in tow, are in reality little girls wanting to play dress up just one more time. Perhaps what she’s really crying out for is fatherly affection whenever she suddenly lashes out at her boyfriend. We’re all wounded and delicate pretending to be strong on our own and making it seem as if we have it all together. Children always need their parents, though.
Last week during spin class warm-up, I looked around and observed the people in the group. Young and old, male and female, from all walks of life. As the instructor was explaining his teaching method, I pictured all of us as young grade school students in class taking directions from our superior. Being educated by an adult. I wondered if any of my spin mates had learning difficulties as a child, developmental disabilities, or sucked at math as much as I did. It’s crazy to think that people live their whole adult lives paralyzed in fear of being put on the spot, asked something they’re not really sure of, and someone making fun of them for it. Embarrassed. Their whole lives. Because of something rooted in their childhood.
We all learn differently. Some of us are visual learners. Some of us auditory. We all act and respond differently. Certain events that we experience cause us to react in either “fight” or “flight” mode. One traumatizing event from our childhood or upbringing can shape (mold) the entire course of our lives. A person can say the same statement to twenty different people, and the reactions from those twenty people will vary. We get defensive and angry and sensitive because it was never discussed or corrected when we were young. Now, as an adult who lacks close friends due to your short temper, you’re seeing the pattern in which your childhood almost pre-destined for you to have. Now, as a grown woman, you long for affection and intimacy because you never received it from your parents. Now, as a grown man, you overwork yourself because you’re afraid to fail, and you’re afraid to fail because your parents didn’t allow failure. Now, as a grown adult, no one likes being around you because you’re too uptight and mean, and it’s because your father yelled at you to grow up when you played a harmless prank on him.
Everything all ties together. The way we speak to our children matters. How we encourage them matters. How we love them matters. Think of it this way: our actions [towards our children] shape who they become. If our childhood is the clay, parents are the hands that mold the clay. Racism is learned. Sexism is learned. Violence and abuse, is often times not only learned, but a continued generational pattern; the mindset (albeit subconscious) is as follows: “I abuse because my mother abused”.
We’re all children in grown-up bodies. If “daddy issues” (and “mommy issues”!) aren’t dealt with sooner as opposed to later, if they’re simply pushed down and temporarily buried, they eventually resurface in our relationships with others. Many people get married because, unknowingly, they are looking for the love they never received from a parent and thus are trying to fill that void through a marital partner. The problem with not letting wounds from our childhood heal is that they will manifest in other ways…but just end up wreaking havoc.
At the end of each day we strip off the adult clothes and, when we’re left with ourselves, become child-like again. I don’t mean child-like in the sense of playing with dolls or GI Joes (as that would be an indication of a possible mental illness—a grown man or woman playing with toys meant for children), but child-like in the sense of being clueless, in a way. Lost. Not knowing everything. At some point, something was robbed from us and from our childhood. Perhaps it was innocence. Once we hit our teenage years, the things that we once delighted in when we were just a tad bit younger no longer entertain us. Our parents and the sweetness of the fellowship we had with them when we were young now embarrasses us. We don’t want to be seen with (or be around) them anymore. But when, and why, did that change? What happened? When did we lose our childlike wonder and pure heart?
We grew up.
Parents are responsible for the development (and the turn-out) of their children’s character. Yes, there comes a point in which the child is no longer a child but rather old enough to start making decisions without adult supervision, but can we really expect certain children to “know better”? If we, as parents (or if you’re not a parent, as an adult) miss the mark in terms of really nurturing the the young ones of our generation, teaching them right from wrong, etcetera, how can a child know anything other than what they’ve been taught? Then what they have seen? Then what they’ve picked up from you being their prime example?
There is a tremendous weight of responsibility that rests on the shoulders of fathers and mothers. I believe that in order to be a great parent, there needs to be possessed a great amount of self-awareness. In order to be a person of influence and of power, if you want to be a person who truly makes a mark on the Earth, humility is vital. We must first get healed before bringing children into a broken equation. The young generation of today not only needs us, they depend on us. The most important virtue of all, I believe, is to stay young at heart. Because when we’re young we’re still pure. How do we get there? How do we return to the place we started from? We must learn to re-mold ourselves. Surely, we mustn’t make the tragic mistake of growing up. After all, we are just clay.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. —Matthew 5:8