Posted on | December 19, 2005 | By Rabbi Label Lam | 11 Comments
Don’t use me as an example. My case is exceptional. My parents after many years became Shomer Shabbos in-spite of me and more because of my wife and children. Children can have that kind of impact on relatives. I witnessed an irreligious grandfather, a holocaust survivor, being told by his little five year old frum grandchild, “Grandpa, where’s your yarmulke?” He rushes to put one on! “Grandpa, you didn’t make a brocho!” He asks for coaching on which brocho. Only a child could have gotten him to do those things and with that much joy!
The best thing when dealing with parents or anybody is to have no agenda to change them. When somebody has an agenda it interferes with the relationship. It says, “I don’t like you where you are now!” The person gets the message. “If I’m not appreciated where I am, then who promises I will be loved if I move to the next square? What kind of love is that anyway? I don’t feel safe around this person!” Therefore the basis of and the motivation of the relationship is love. Love must be unconditional. Sounds sappy? It’s the only thing that works.
When people are trying to change each other the fighting and tension goes on forever. It may be a useful process to “complete” the relationship we have with parents. That is to thank and forgive. In our own minds and maybe on paper to design a script that says, I am thankful for (Fill in the blank in detail) all you have done! I forgive you for all you were unable to do or whatever you did foolishly because I assume you didn’t or couldn’t know better. That’s how you learned to express love! It may not have been sufficient for me and I do not hold it against you anymore.” Something like that.
Then you’ve got to be a little blind and deaf when cutting criticism of Judaism and such things is launched at you…Sometimes we just have to duck. Sometimes we take it on the face. My experience is, the more we say to ourselves the script above, the more compassion we feel for the situation in which non-frum parent grew up and learned to survive without Torah, the less defensive they feel…the war is over…and the more a benign relationship stands to blossom into a respectful one as time does its thing!