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Monday, July 16, 2007

Families, Morality, and Societal Mores

Sanur Beach, Bali. Photo Credit
Isn’t love the most important thing? Isn’t it on our highest list of priorities? What do we have if we don’t have love? And what do we have if we don’t have our families…or at least those people whom we have chosen to be our family as adults…

I have three sons. None has yet decided to marry. It is entirely possible that one of them may choose a woman I feel is not right for them. Or a woman I don’t like. Or a woman who does not like me. Does that mean I need to try to impose my ideas? Or show the son in question the rightness of my own criteria and judgement over his own regarding the feasibility of the woman of his choice?

Of course not. If I treasure my relationship with my sons, I will respect their choices and do my utmost to have a good relationship with the women of their choice. Why? Because of the love. That is, after all, the most important aspect of a relationship with one’s offspring. The love also implies respect and trust that they are adults to do their own deciding and choosing, and to leave them the autonomy to do these things.

Is it any different if it is a brother? Perhaps one who has decided to end his marriage and begin a relationship with a younger woman of whom I disapprove? Or perhaps I disapprove of his actions. Or perhaps my moral stance, or my religious beliefs, or the societal mores I adhere to, make me feel that what he is doing is inadmissible. Hence I feel obliged to shun his new girl friend. By doing so I evidently damage my relationship with my brother. Perhaps not superficially. But in the depths something is being ripped asunder. Something will never be the same. Why would I do this? Isn’t love the most important aspect of my relationship with him? Is it possible that I can be so blind to the empty dictates of my ego that tell me that because I believe I am right I must endanger my relationship with my brother in order to prove the righteousness of my moral stance?

And is it any different if it is a father? He ended the relationship with my mother. I am an adult. I can see both sides of the spectrum. I may not agree, but if my father is doing the right things in the manner in which the marriage is being dissolved, and showing normal respect for my mother, then must I not respect his choices and decisions due to the love of our relationship? Can I just forget about that and decide to endanger that relationship in order to prove to my father that he is wrong, or that I believe he is wrong, and that therefore I must shun his new choice of companion?

We all know that families and close relationships are fraught with difficulties and emotions that are not always easily and readily dealt with. But wouldn’t all of this be so much easier if we would just keep our eyes on the highest priority: our love for each other and the eternal importance of the relationship we share. Once we have that straight, we can worry about the rest. We can discuss it, we can keep open minds about it, we may be able to make some compromises, but all of that must be secondary to the love we share. That lies at the heart of our close relationships and that must come before all else.

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