On humility, raising children, and the place of God

In at least some respects, being a parent has gotten harder, especially after God slowly exited from our everyday conversations and rituals. We might wonder today when children become so self-centered and small-minded. Now, they can only fathom their immediate existence, the toys and playthings around them. Soon, they will be off to school and will hear, over and over again, how great and talented they are. Ah, I can’t wait for the self-esteem training to kick in.

But it was not always thus. God had played an instrumental human role in psychodynamic development for the idea of God had served to inculcate humility in young children. God meant scale, a divine scale of time and power and magnitude, a scale that vastly exceeded the child’s scale of momentary wants and pleasures and needs. One of the functions of God was to make humans feel small. One of the great benefits was to hold tantrums in check.

To be sure, the God-structure can and has been misused. But then it had also been used to great effect, allowing the tragic character of life to shine through. I am tiny in the great order of things. Other children suffer and have suffered immensely. Look at Job who suffered unjustly. And with what results?

  1. Human to Divine Scale: I am no longer tethered to my first-person perspective. I can begin to take on a third-person perspective. Look how vast and awesome everything is.
  2. Gratitude: I guess I’ve got it pretty good after all, and so I have a lot to be thankful for.
  3. Empathy: Others have it far worse than I. Who knew?
  4. Table of Values: In light of God’s greatness and my smallness, I realize that there are things of lesser and greater importance.

In this blog, I have stressed, from a human perspective, the role that God used to play in our human affairs. I believe, after the death of God, after the withdrawal of God from our everyday practices, that we need to think hard about what sorts of activities and understandings will make young persons aware of their own finitude–that is to say, what will inculcate in them a sense of their own humility.

The Egyptians carted out skulls during dinnertime. Apparently, they valued getting their points across.

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