The Love of a Parent

I love this quote from Frederick Buechner:

“‘He who loves has fifty woes … who loves none has no woe,’ said the Buddha, and it is true. To love another, as you love a child, is to become vulnerable in a whole new way. It is no longer only through what happens to yourself that the world can hurt you but through what happens to the one you love also and greatly more hurtingly. When it comes to your own hurt, there are always things you can do. You can put up a brave front, for one, and behind that front, if you are lucky, if you persist, you can become a little brave inside yourself. You can become strong in the broken places, as Hemingway said. You can become philosophical, recognizing how much of your troubles you have brought down on your own head and resolving to do better by yourself in the future. Like King Lear on the heath, you can become more compassionate. Like the whiskey priest, you can become a saint. But when it comes to the hurt of a child you love, you are all but helpless. The child makes terrible mistakes, and there is very little you can do to ease his pain, especially when you are so often a part of his pain as the child is also a part of yours. There is no way to make him strong with such strengths as you may have found through your own hurt, or wise through such wisdom, and even if there were, it would be the wrong way because it would be your way, not his. The child’s pain becomes your pain, and as the innocent bystander, maybe it is even a worse pain for you, and in the long run even the bravest front is not much use.

“What man and woman, if they gave serious thought to what having children inevitably involves, would ever have them? Yet what man and woman, once having had them and loved them, would ever want it otherwise? … To suffer in love for another’s suffering is to live life not only at its fullest but at its holiest … The small beat up face I saw for the first time that January morning in 1959 actually was the face of the world if I’d only had a saint’s eyes to see it with.”

via Faith and Family: A Dad’s Search for Truth: The Love of a Child.

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

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