A friend of mine was texting me the other night with issues she was having with her daughter, Mothers Day had come and passed and all she received from her daughter was a text stating Happy Mothers Day. Shallow and cold, I will admit, but not unexpected. The relationship between them has always been a bit strained. Even as a young child, the daughter is now in her 20’s, she was a self-centered child. Looking to always serve her own interest. The blame, as always, lies between the parents and the personality of the child.
Her parents are divorced, I do not know the father, but know the mother well. She holds on to the divorce live a badge, she will not let it go, never have and most likely never will. She is bitter and hurt. For what I do not know, for I only know one side of the story. And as we all know, one side of a two-sided story is never enough. What I do know is the deep roots this divorce has caused. I have known the mother for over 15 years, at one time we dated, and we have remained friends after the break-up. Her lack of ability to let it go causes much pain in her and those around her, this, of course, cause issues with-in the family unit. From what I can tell, based on what I have been told by the mother and the kids, she has two, a boy and girl, the father is not very concerned with rules. He is laid back and not very concerned with structure. Is that the case, I do not know, like I said I have never had the change to meet him. But it is the narrative played out in the kids and mother.
The mother, she is controlling and likes structure, she is deeply emotional and likes lots of affirmations, one could say she is needy. Is she a bad person, no, I think she has a big heart and means well, but I do think she has a difficult time defining love, to me it seems she places a tangible value on love and fails to see love as intangible. She needs to “see” love, the feeling is not enough.
Sure, I will be the first to admit Love is many things, tangible and intangible, but I will also be the first to admit that Love is not one thing, it’s not seeing over feeling, and Love does not always show it self in the ways we would expect. Sometimes the smallest of acts, a smile at just the right moment, says Love more than the words could ever do, Sometimes, but not Always…
Sometimes that same smile can be spiteful and hurtful… Love is…. What is it?
The bible offers us many passages about love, but the one that came to mind when I was talking to my friend, trying to help her through the latest issue with her daughter was this…
13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Why this passage of all passages… The Holy Spirit works in odd ways, let me tell you….
Some back ground of the conversations:
As I said, the daughter text her “Happy Mothers Day” her son, who is in Mexico as part of his seminarian training, called her and talked for 2 hours. A drastic difference, but the two kids are as different as night and day, so not unexpected. But back to the issue at hand.
She asked me what I thought of it all, my response, What did you expect from her. Her response, Love. This conversation went on for about 45 minutes (by the way, I hate texting).
She asked for my advice on what she should do, my advice, same as it has been for a few years now, Stop expecting what she will not provide you. Her response, What, I should not expect my daughters love.
Not exactly what I was talking about, I explained that she loves you, but you will never get the response you want, and if you keep setting yourself up for disappointment, that’s what you will always get.
Still no go, her questions, Is it so wrong for a mother to want her child’s love. My response, No, it’s not wrong, but you cannot force anyone to love you in the way you want or need. Love does not force, it does not control and it is not needy. She did not really like that response from me. Sometimes the truth hurts.
But she knows me well, and she knows I always speak my mind and tell it as I see it. No harm was intended and I am sure no harm was done. So she asked for clarification.
My clarifications, We have to learn to accept the love that is offered, not try to change the love to be what we want. This did not help. She still felt that love was a tangible thing.
Her plan of action
The daughter’s birthday is next month, so her plan is to give her daughter a photo of the three of them, the mother and the two kids. Sounds nice, unless you know the daughter, and I do… She will reject this, not because she hates her brother and not because she hates her mother, but she will reject it out of spite. Just to retain the control over her mother. The more she rejects her mom, the more control she has over her. Her mothers need for tangible love is strong, and her mothers need to control is strong (she is a passive aggressive controller).So the rejection of the photo would only lead to the mother feeling hurt and trying to figure out what she can do to earn her daughters love. This, of course, gives the daughter all the power, and the mother none.
My response to the planed gift, Not a good idea. Do not play into her hands. So what than should I do, was her next question.. Text her, Happy Birthday, and offer her a dinner. Leave it at that… She was not happy with that recommendation. Her concern, if the daughter rejects the dinner invite, that would hurt more, and she really wants to give the photo and birthday card.
The real concern, she wants to gain the upper hand, to have control, to tug at her daughter’s heart-strings, and she thinks the family photo will do the trick.
But she is missing the point, the text and dinner offer gives her the control, the daughter would not expect the same treatment she gives her mother. Now some would say I was being childish, but I beg to differ. The response is not meant to hurt, but to level the playing field, to stop setting oneself up for one disappointment after another, to start to accept the kind of love the daughter was offering and to learn that sometimes we must let go.
So this is the point where I offered my bible verse:
13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
The point of the passage was missed on her. But it was too late at night for me to get in to is, so I told her to think on it. She asked me to send her an email explaining it to her, so this post is my response (I will only send her the part concerning the passage, all the above back ground information is for us only…Unless she reads this blog…)
Why did that passage pop into me head as a good passage to use? What was the Holy Spirit leading me to? And how do I explain it? Well here I will try:
When most people read that passage, the first think that comes to mind is Jesus upon the cross, offering up His life for our sins. Offering it up freely… WOW, that is true love and friendship. So most of us think of it as the ultimate act of sacrifice for love and friendship, to offer ones life, and it is, if it is not takes to lightly. We read stories and see it on the news, people placing themselves in danger for a child or a loved one, we even see it being done for total strangers (think Boston Marathon bombing).
The gift of life should never be taken lightly and should never be given lightly. But is that the only way one can lay down ones life for a friend? I think not!
*Parents lay down their life for their children on a daily basis. Not always by risking death, sometimes it is by stand by their child through a sickness or by supporting a child through hard times. The love of a parent knows no bounds. The parent knows that rejection of the love is always a possibility, but it is offered anyway, parents know a child my do something that may go beyond anything they may have ever dreamed their child was capable of (think school shootings), but even than a parent will stand by their child. They may not approve of the child’s actions, they may even be the ones to turn them in to the authorities, but there love for that child does not falter. They are willing to take the mean words offered to them by others who do not understand, that will defend their child even if it means they to are persecuted. This is a death they are willing to undertake for their child. Not a physical death, but yet, it is still a death.
Consider a parent of an addict, they offer help and forgiveness to their child, they take them in and support them, only to have the addiction take over their child, yet again. But they continue to support and make excuse for the child, to shelter them from the crudeness of the world. Thinking that they are helping the child, suffering with the child, only to see the child falter again. This is not laying down ones life, it is protection of ones own life. The child needs to learn how to fail, so they can learn how not to fail. For the parent this means to let the child fail, and in doing so, they to will feel the failures the disappointments and resentment of and from the child. This is a death, but like the death of Jesus, there is a resurrection, a new life.
The new life comes from the child’s understanding that actions have consequences, that the addiction causes pain. But if the parent kept sheltering the child, the pain is always shifted to the parent, the child takes no responsibility for their actions. But by the parent allowing the child to feel the failure the parent is also allowing the child to grow to learn and to experience a new life. And the parent is also allowed to grow, to learn and to experience a new life. This most likely will not happen in tandem with each other, the parent may experience the new life before the child even realizes what has just happened, or the parent may take years to come to terms with the fact that they allowed their child to fail. But in the end, Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends… And a life can be laid down in many ways.
* The examples are given to illustrate a point, I am not implying that this is always the case. And before anyone starts yelling at me about the addiction example, yes I do understand additions, yes, I know what I am talking about… But remember, it was an example, not a real life situation, so deal with it…