Mary and Joseph – Parents to emulate

by Alice Miller

Mary and Joseph – Parents to emulate
Monday December 25, 2000

The figure of Jesus confounds all those principles of Poisonous Pedagogy
still upheld by the Church, notably the use of punishment to make children
obedient and the emotional blindness such treatment inevitably entails. Jesus
was respected, admired, loved and protected, his parents saw themselves as
his servants and it would never have occurred to them to lay a finger on him.
Did that make him selfish, arrogant, covetous, high-handed or conceited?
Quite the contrary.

Jesus grew into a strong, aware, empathic and wise person able to
experience and sustain strong emotions without being engulfed by them. He
could see through hypocrisy and mendacity and he had the courage to pillory
them for what they were. He had no need of power over others because he was
entirely at one with himself.

Yet for all that, no representative of the Church has ever, to my
knowledge, admitted to the patent connection between the character of Jesus
and the way he was brought up. Would it not make eminently good sense to
encourage believers to follow the example of Mary and Joseph and regard their
children as the children of God (which they are) rather than treating them as
their own personal property ?

It is time to relinquish destructive models and to mistrust the principle
of obedience. We have no need of obedient children brainwashed by their
upbringing to be the ideal victims for the empty verbiage and the
blandishments of terrorists and lunatic ideologists and ready to fall in with
their commands, even to the extent of killing others. We need children with
open eyes and ears, children prepared to protest against injustice, stupidity
and ignorance with arguments and constructive action. Jesus was able to do
this when he was twelve years old and the scene in the temple demonstrates
eloquently that he could refuse the obedience asked of him by his parents
without hurting their feelings.

With the best will in the world we cannot truly emulate the example of
Jesus. To do that we would need to have been through an entirely different
kind of personal history. What we can do, as long as we really want to and
are not thwarted by external authority, is to learn from the attitude
displayed by Joseph and Mary. They did not need their son’s obedience and
they felt no urge to punish him. Only if we fear the confrontation with our
own histories will we need to have power over others, and if we do that we
will need more and more of it all the time. Parents want power and obedient
children because they feel too weak to be true to themselves and their own
feelings, too weak to admit those feelings to their children. But it is
precisely this kind of honesty with our children that makes us strong.
To tell the truth we do not need to have power over others.

Power is
something we need to spread lies, to mouth empty words and pretend they are
true. It is for this that we require mindless gullibility from our children
or from whole nations. And because such power can never be a substitute for
the real strength of the truth, the insane logic of such a development is
bound to culminate in wars and the dreadful toll of human life they
invariably exact.

It is entirely realistic to imagine that if the wisdom of well-informed
experts (like Frédéric Leboyer, Michel Odent, Bessem van der Kolk and many
others) were to reach a large number of parents and those parents had the
support of religious authorities in following the example of Mary and Joseph,
the world would be a much more peaceful, honest and rational place for our
children than it is today.