Being Like Your Parents

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

You’ve probably seen the TV commercials for the Progressive Insurance Company in which a counsellor, a “Parenta-life Coach” identified as Dr. Rick, tries to stop young adults from becoming like their parents. Dr. Rick’s goal is to prevent his clients from adopting the little idiosyncrasies, the embarrassing behavior, of their parents in a number of everyday settings, e.g. at the supermarket, at the ballgame, or in an elevator.
The ads are hilarious because they capture some real-life situations that we’ve seen in our own families. Don’t your parents and grandparents have some funny little habits and practices that are part of their routine? As kids and grandkids we laugh about these quirky behaviors, but in fact we find them endearing and they become part of our family story-telling. And, sure enough, as we grow older we find ourselves doing some crazy little things too. Calling Dr. Rick!
It occurs to me, however, that there are also some really good habits we should learn from our elders. Earlier generations lived with important virtues that seem to be lost today – hard work, sacrifice, discipline, respect, modesty, and good manners come quickly to mind. New generations have largely abandoned these behaviors and as a result the quality of life in our society has suffered.
And from a Christian perspective, there’s real value from imitating our spiritual parents too – Our Father in Heaven, and our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to his disciples, “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:48) But if we’re to be perfect, what do we learn from our spiritual Father? Well, certainly the virtues of love and compassion, generosity and goodness, mercy and forgiveness. But perfection is a tall order for us mere humans. I don’t know about you, but when I look in the mirror I don’t see someone who is perfect at all!
And we can also learn from our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary. This goal might seem more attainable to us for Mary is one of us. Mary is a member of our human family and she has traveled the same road that we travel. But Mary was a pillar of virtue and from her we learn the importance of faith and trust, humility and obedience, silence and prayer.
So, without discounting Dr. Rick’s fictional counselling efforts, there are many good reasons that we should try to become like our parents, imitating the goodness and virtues of their lives.
Something to think about: Do your parents and grandparents have some funny little behaviors that are part of your family’s folklore?