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Pointers along the way #173

Generation to generation
- Jacob Ninan

Every generation hands over the baton to the next, and disappears after some time. This is the way God has planned for us in our life on earth, and we need to be able to face it gracefully. If we keep the right perspective with regards to our role in the continuing cycle of life, much heartache can be avoided (Ps.90:12).

When we are born into this world, we are under the care of our parents for a long time. Our parents make tremendous sacrifices to bring us up and take care of us. But a time comes in our life when we have to stand on our feet and make our own decisions. This becomes especially true when we get married, leave our parents, and begin to cleave to our spouses (Ge.2:24). Without imagining that we know better than our parents, but recognising that they have a lot more experience than we, we still need to make this transition. Knowing our own lack of experience, we continue to look for advice from others including our parents.

This can be a painful process for both our parents and us, as both they and we have to let go of the psychological and social bonding that has been there between us. But this is as necessary as having to cut off the umbilical cord between the baby and the mother at the time of birth. We are naturally afraid to let go of the security that we used to enjoy of being under their protection, and they feel deprived of someone they have taken so much pains to care for. This is not easy to understand or accept unlike in the case of the umbilical cord.

As the cycle of life goes forward, there comes another time when we have to let go of our children and they start their independent life. It is not easy to let go because we sincerely fear that they would get hurt without our protection. We may also feel insecure ourselves about the support that we might need from our children in our old age. But just as we received the baton from our previous generation, we have to hand it over to the new generation.

Cutting the umbilical cord can be done swiftly and once for all, but not so with this letting go of psychological and social bonding. This has to be done gracefully as well as tactfully. We must not let the anticipated pain hold us back, because this pain will lead to peace and understanding in the long run. The break need not be swift or harsh but stretched over a period of time, especially if the other side is not willing to let go.

Children need to love and honour their parents. "Leaving" does not mean ceasing to care or shirking responsibilities, but only recognising and honouring the new realities and priorities.

Unwillingness for the hand over from generation to generation causes suffering for everyone. Parents clinging on to control amounts to a violation of boundaries, and children may feel frustrated because of the interference. But recognising that the transition is inevitable and for everyone's benefit, let us handle it wisely and graciously.