I remember some years ago reading a story about a young man who, when he was still in his teen years, had a bed-wetting issue. In an attempt to break him of the habit, his frustrated parents took his wet bedsheets, hung them in the front yard, and made him sit among them with a sign which stated “I wet the bed.”
I’ve also seen in recent years parents who forced their children to stand in front of stores or on street corners holding signs announcing their wrongdoings to the public at large. These young people were made to walk up and down and hold the sign out for all to see. There are also parents who have called police on small children who took some kind of an item from a store (like a bar of candy) to teach the child a lesson. I’ve heard of this done to children who were kindergarten age.
I can tell you that these kinds of actions got a lot of thumbs-up from passersby and from people who were asked to comment. The parents themselves were often interviewed and got a chance to tell the public at large how they were teaching their child/children a lesson. And this also received overwhelmingly positive comments.
The interesting thing is that I can’t recall in any of these circumstances where the child or children were asked for their point of view. They were not given any kind of voice. They were the silent actors in a scene from their own life play, and that scene was constructed to their detriment. Yet this was never stated.
Well, since I was a member of the public at large that got the “benefit” of seeing this kind of punishment meted out to young people as a “lesson”, I feel I have the right to say what I think about it. And I’m about to, too.
Parents expect obedience from their children. They see rebellion in the household as a form of disloyalty. Children owe their parents respect, and they owe obedience, and the reason is they are family, the parents are in charge and are held responsible, and children owe respect and obedience as a form of loyalty in action to their parents.
But loyalty isn’t a one-way street. A parent’s job is to shelter his or her child from as much of the negative side of the world as he or she can. A parent is to be a child’s advocate, even in the face of disobedience, mistakes, and sins. If a child breaks a neighbor’s window with a rock, for example, the parent would not (hopefully) march the child down to the neighbor’s home, knock on the door, and push the child into the neighbor’s home and say “Do with him what you like. It’s his problem!”
So for a parent to expose their child to draconian actions, such as calling the police over a candy bar, or to be a participant in their child’s public humiliation are acts so disloyal to their child that it turns my stomach. These kinds of acts really are not about what the child did but about the parent’s perception that he/she will be judged in the negative by the child’s actions and therefore the parent takes an action to make himself or herself look good in the public eye. These kinds of action may “teach” the child a lesson while leaving a psychological scar for the rest of that child’s life.
The saddest thing is, as I mentioned above, such actions receive overwhelmingly positive reactions from society at large. Which leads me to the point of my article.
We have a loyalty problem in this society. We don’t know how to be loyal any more. And this is backed up by the fact that people don’t know what commitment means any more. Commitment is no longer a permanent thing. It is for a period of time which is convenient for one or both sides of a relationship.
Look, for example, at news reports in which people have adopted children, and when the children give them any kind of a significant issue, they return them to the adoption agency/their original country/etc.
At least half of marriages end in divorce. People don’t marry for life. They marry for convenience and when it stops being fun, or convenient, they split up.
Companies used to hire workers for the long term. Now they routinely have layoffs as a way to cut costs/raise stock prices.
Workers used to look for a career with a company. Now they job-hop.
And then we come to the state of religion in our country. People who actually go to church shop for a place that agrees with their world view. Many like “non-denominational” churches because they aren’t committed to any kind of a creed or specified belief system. One can go to a service with a like-minded group of the spiritually nebulous and have company while believing what one wishes.
And then there’s the ever-present problem of Catholics who delight in posting and reposting scandals and/or perceived scandals about the Church. They air dirty laundry as a matter of course, it seems. And this absolutely delights the enemies of the Church!
We have to bring loyalty back in our lives, our country, our world. Start at home. Be loyal to your loved ones even when they disappoint you. Stand up for friends when they are wrong, and stand by them in their distress.
As Catholics, we should stop focusing our ire on the Church and our clergy. Laity should not just be sheep who follow their shepherds, but warriors who stand and defend the Church, its bishops and priests. We are called to martyrdom as Catholics, not necessarily a blood martyrdom, but a martyrdom of our lives in service to Christ. We should be loyal to those we love and to our Church and its shepherds, enough so that we should be willing to stand up for them until our last breath.