Saturday, January 10, 2009


Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought. Pope John Paul II, from Crossing the Threshold of Hope

I think about this quote in relation to my children. If I micro-manage their lives and their days, are the kids given opportunity to exercise this freedom to choose right? Or is it a good thing if the right action is forced onto them, meaning they do right because they have to and not because they should and/or want to?

This may be semantics but I feel it is important. The freedom to choose makes the difference.

I, and my kids, need to be given the opportunity to choose right - not have the right action forced on us. I wonder if this is a personality thing, we are a family of pretty strong personalities!
We tend to do good things when we feel free to choose good but find it oh so difficult if told to or made to do something.

I am the worst for this. I often give my husband the you-know-whats simply because I find it hard to do what he tells me to do .

Of course, we give freedom to choose what we ought in a family culture of guidance and co-operation and sharing of the Faith. We assume a spiritual formation, a formation of a conscience. We assume that a child , and a wayward adult like me!, is learning right from wrong and feels remorse for not-nice actions.

We don't have freedom to treat others poorly, without apology. We don't have freedom to hurt others without remorse.

We have freedom to choose and our spiritual formation helps us choose what is right. Or to make amends for those times when we choose less than right options.

Why is it that one abuses freedom, to assert his/her will and another uses freedom to build others? Why is it that one feels remorse over poor choices and another doesn't seem to question him/herself?

Remorse. A feeling of regret for one's sins or misdeeds.

Remorse: beholding heaven and feeling hell . George Moore

I lie awake some nights, feeling remorse over some of my words. Words usually, not deeds.

Now, too much remorse can be a form of self pity. One can wallow in remorse and not choose to do something right - not choose to do as we ought, not choose to do anything at all. Acedia. ( As an aside, I am wanting to read this book, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life suggested by an internet friend at a homeschooling forum..).

Other people, however, appear to feel little remorse.

How to give our children freedom to choose, while guiding their formation? So, they, too choose good and know how to apologize for times when they may hurt others? How do we help ourselves do the same?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states ~

1804 The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions. Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.

Therefore,we encourage our children and ourselves in the acquisition of virtues. It is in this acquisition that we then have freedom to choose.

The virtues? The Catechism again ~

1805 Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called "cardinal"; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. "If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom's] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage."64 These virtues are praised under other names in many passages of Scripture..

Prudence... A seemingly old fashioned word yet St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle, wrote that prudence is "right reason in action." Looking at where you are going. Thinking about your choices.

Justice is much discussed in my family, the kids have a strong sense of justice! It is something we talk about a lot, after incidents, when watching movies or discussing books. Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good.

Challenge oneself ~ get out of your comfort zone! I say this to myself and to the kids. And thus we think of fortitude as the virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life.

Temperance, like prudence, is a word from another time. Yet, we are all asked to exercise temperance at some time or other. And temperance is developed for me when I choose it, not when temperance is pushed by others ( Do you really want to eat that, stop eating that chocolate, says a family member. Argh! Now that has been said, I want to eat that chocolate more!). Temperance moderates the attraction of pleasures and ensures the will's mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honourable.

I started off thinking about freedom. About doing what is right. Segued into thinking of remorse and of the virtues.

But they are all, almost, one and the same, aren't they?

We have freedom but not licentiousness. We aim to choose right; when we do not, we should feel remorse and apologise or make amends. It is the development of virtue that enables us to use our right to do what we ought.

We develop virtues together, by working together, not as adversaries and not by control.

You're not your child's adversary, you're his partner.
It helps lots to mentally shift away from trying to change our kids to helping them be who they are....Be her partner in helping her get what she wants from life rather than her controller.....Be a role model of respect for her. Treat her with respect. Don't wait until you think she deserves your respect. Respect her for who she is inside rather than the creature she feels she needs to become in order to fight for control.
Think of it like this: If some controlling adult thought you should put on courtly manners at church and you felt you were behaving well already, would you respect him and change to his ideas if he gave you a time-out, ignored you when you spoke to him, confined you to your room or spanked you?
It's not likely we'll want to change for someone who's ranting at us! But we'll consider doing things as a favor for someone who loves and respects who we already are.
Joyfully Rejoycing

Painting above - Correggio - Allegory of the Virtues.

1 comment:

Willa said...

Great quotes and thoughts. Thank you!