If Not Them, Who?

We do our best to be good citizens. Good colleagues. Good people. We don’t freak out like some demonic Karen in a viral video when something goes wrong at the supermarket. We follow the law. We help others when they need it. We try to practice the golden rule.

Good. Good. Good.

But isn’t it strange how much of this time and energy is spent externally, out in the world? Because at home we’re so much less contained and controlled. We’d never get upset about an employee’s messy desk but we nag our children about their room as if it was a reflection of their character. We encourage our children’s teammates…and criticize the performance of our own children. We insist our children respect our spouse and then we wait for them to go to bed and fight nastily with that same person!

We’re complicated, we’re flawed, we’re total hypocrites, aren’t we? Even the best of us are. As Louis Fischer wrote of Gandhi, not unfairly, “from young manhood, he was sweet and kind toward everybody except his wife and sons.” Ouch. We talked about Angela Merkel’s father recently–as a pastor he had endless time and patience for his congregation and then came home tired, frustrated and short with his own family. It can’t work that way!

Our family deserves the best of us, the best treatment. Not the remnants, not the apologies or rationalizations of “Oh, I am having a tough time at work.” Who are we, Seneca, said, if we rage and yell at good people? Certainly not a good person ourselves. We owe our kids better. We owe our spouse better. We owe them what we owe everyone: Sweetness. Kindness. Patience. Help. Respect. Love. We owe it to ourselves to give it to them.

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