Thursday, March 16, 2006

Catherine Thomas on Relationships

Here are my favorite quotes (so far) from “Women, Priesthood, and At-One-Ment” in _Spiritual Lightening_ by M. Catherine Thomas (SLC: Bookcraft, 1996). Thanks to Kathy S. for sharing this book with me.

“As to perfecting ourselves in a relationship, it is easy for us to live for a good many years on the assumption that we have a right to be satisfied by life events and by the people in our lives. This is a precept of man. If we continue all the way through this life with that assumption, we will have failed to learn what we came here to learn and will have failed to develop some personal essentials. We will never obtain the essential divine nature and can never be exalted until we know and practice the truth. One important truth is that our husbands, our wives, and our children were not given to us to satisfy us, and nor were many of the most important events of our lives. To the world, love is a relationship in which the parties involved satisfy each other enough that they can call that relationship ‘love.’ But this is not love at all—it is just self-serving.
“We can tell that our love is often based on the degree to which another person satisfies us: If they don’t satisfy us, we criticize them. It seems to me that most criticism is saying, ‘In these ways, this person does not satisfy my expectations as to what he should be.’ But our expectations are a function of the finite mind, the telestial and selfish mind, not the mind of God. . .
"We stand in a sacred relationship to the people in our lives, especially family, because they are not there by chance. The people in our lives were placed there not only for us to enjoy but also to cross us and to dissatisfy us from time to time so that we can learn that love is not a matter of personal satisfaction but a going out of our hearts to empathize with, to understand, and to try to bless the other, giving up the demand of the natural man for satisfaction—to love the other, to forgive the other, to cease to demand that the other satisfy us, and to seek to be able to bless that person. Relationships were given to us to develop us in love.” (pp 55-56)

“Grace is enabling or strengthening power given to another who can’t provide it for himself—but needs it.” (p. 57)

Catherine Thomas was talking here about spouses. And it has been a wonderful thought-provoker to me, in terms of my marriage. But I also can't help thinking about it as it relates to my children. Too often I criticize my children because they don't satisfy me. (I justify it by saying that it is my job to "fix" them--because if I don't, who will? It's my job as their parent.) I think I have been getting too self-serving about how I treat my kids. I need to remember that most of what they do is not my business.

There are only two things that are my business when it comes to my kids:

I must teach them the gospel.
I must be a good example.

Other than that, it's all up to them, isn't it?

I have been too selfish and WAY too impatient with them. I hope they'll forgive me.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

So much to say--but I'll limit myself to just a few words right now--

Teaching your children the gospel and being a good example. Absolutely. It helps me to remember that the basic gospel is focused on overcoming the natural man and becoming a saint. We will exemplify the process, not the finished product. When I get that sinking feeling that comes when I realize I've been wrong (and how will this affect my children!), it helps me to see the tremendous opportunity to model repentance/change. My kids will need to repent as an ongoing, daily process throughout their lives. Won't it help them to see me doing the same?

My point: there's a lot of potential anxiety in the responsibility to teach and exemplify. I think sometimes our failures can become our greatest successes.