It would be hard to overestimate the significance of my mother in life. For those who may not know her well, her quiet and patient manner of life, far from being a liability to her parenting, has deeply stamped itself into her children. So, in tribute to my mother, who’ll be embarrassed to read this, the five things my mother has taught me.
- Happiness is a choice, not circumstantial – Our lives did not always contain all the ingredients that many assume are necessary for happiness. My mother could not be blamed for expressing a bit of bitterness. But the deep impression I have of her example is simple and quiet peace with the lot that God had granted her. She would tell me to “get to work,” which in her words was synonymous with “have fun.” I’d have to learn to love work, and to make joy my choice.
- Being good is better than looking good – My mom was never overly concerned with how I made her look (though I suppose I was, in her words, “a compliant rebel”). But she relentlessly prayed for my heart and soul. She would point to failures and rejoice that God was teaching me humility, or perseverance, or empathy, or some such thing. She would never be content with my appearing good and being evil, and so I correspondingly developed a hatred for falseness and a passion for reality.
- There is nothing more important than integrity – I remember that it got out once that I had helped myself to some cookies at a house where I was caring for fish. Implied consent, I thought. She didn’t. Young teenage I was forced to confess and to ask forgiveness for stealing cookies. This was not a pleasant moment for a teenager, but I learned that even small sins are a serious breach of integrity.
- Marriage/Parenthood is not an act of self-fulfillment but a happy giving of oneself entirely to others’ good – My mom’s “self-sacrifice” was not like what so many authors despise (e.g. Rand, Tolstoy, etc.), a self-righteous way of taking pleasure in one’s own “lowliness”, put on for show. My mom showed me how one can take delight in helping another to grow, to flourish. She can often be seen at holidays, having slaved over the food and accommodations, sitting quietly in the corner enjoying others enjoyment.
- Being quiet and slow can be really good – in a world dominated by extroverts, my mom showed me by example that quiet contemplation and steady careful action is really valuable.