Since I am a parent I am now a lot more observant of parenting methods I see around me. Sometimes I see really good parenting, like the mom that sees her child struggling to climb the slide at the playground but let’s them struggle a little bit before stepping in. Sometimes kids just have to figure out stuff for themselves.
I also notice not-so-good-parenting. Like the mom that has grape soda in her baby’s bottle when the kid isn’t any older than 4 months. Note to self, don’t do that.
But one parenting method that people may not label as harmful is the mom that loves her family too much.
I believe that a mother, if her love for her family is not ordered in the right way, can actually love her family so much that it is harmful. I’ve heard that argument that loving your family too much is better than being a negligent mother but I think both are extremes at either end of the spectrum and both harmful.
Of course this can relate to anyone who loves another person, a girlfriend, a brother, a grandfather, a daughter, a husband, an aunt, etc.
When I am talking about a mother or any family member that loves their family too much, I mean a person who puts the family before everything else in the world. Before God, before other people’s well-being, before the law, etc.
I don’t want to focus so much on the effect that this kind of love has on others but rather what this love does to the mother.
I think it is extremely easy to put too much importance on family. It is instinctual. When I am walking around and someone accidentally bumps my pregnant belly, my reaction is to hit them or push them back. It’s a totally protective instinct in me. I control it and don’t do it knowing it was an accident but I want to take care of my baby. If someone endangers that, I have to react but I try keep my reaction in check.
Maybe this point is best explained with the next two examples. (Please excuse the nerdiness of the first one.)
In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker is married to Padme. Of course they are both very much in love. She becomes pregnant. He begins having dreams that she will die in childbirth. His love for her is so much that he cannot bear the idea of losing her and will do whatever it takes to keep her alive. This is how the dark side seduces Anakin. He is led to believe if he gives in to the dark side then he will become powerful enough to save her and keep her from dying. So, because he loves her so much, he stops working for good but rather gives in to evil because he will do anything for this love that he has.
This is what I mean by a person that has so much love that it actually stops being love and becomes destructive. This love, instead of being life-giving and ordered toward good, has now become pure possessiveness. Even though the intention of Anakin is good, keeping his wife and unborn children safe, his actions are disordered in that he places this before all else. In the end, while he was trying to keep her from dying, this “love” he has for her actually become the reason she dies. His willingness to put her before good or before God turns his actions to evil and the choices he makes after that lead to her death. This “love” actually destroys the thing it loves so intensely.
The second example comes from C.S. Lewis’ Great Divorce. In the story, the main character is watching conversations between people that have died and are now choosing heaven or choosing hell. These people are met by “Spirits” that converse with them and try to make them see the error of their ways and lead them to heaven. In order to proceed toward heaven, the people have to let go of whatever vice they were guilty of on earth.
One of these people is a mother who had lost her son 10 years before. Her vice was that she loved her son more than anything. This love had grown into something more important than God. The Spirit is trying to get the mother to realize that she needs to let go of her son in order to be able to join him in heaven for all eternity. Yet this “love” for him that she holds onto to is what is keeping her from her son in the end. The Spirit explains to her that while she thinks her love for her son is good, “there is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to him and bad when it turns from Him…You exist as Michael’s mother only because you first exist as God’s creature…You cannot love a fellow creature fully till you love God.”
Her love has made a false god out of her son. She is so desperately holding on to the memory of her son who had died long before her that she cannot see God. She responds to the Spirit, “I don’t believe in a God who keeps a mother and son apart. I believe in a God of Love. No one has the right to come between me and my son. Not even God.”
I am not trying to belittle how difficult it would be to lose a loved one. I can’t really think of something more painful and hard to go through. But I think this scene shows how a mother’s love for her family can turn into too much “love”. The mother believes that she is doing the right thing, putting her family before God because being dedicated to family is good. But even though being a devoted mother may be a virtue, nothing can be virtuous if put before God.
My daughter may only be one year old but I already understand how easy it is to become so wrapped up in being a mother and caring for your family that even your love for God can seem less important. In the ever consuming quest to become a good parent, I believe it is possible to “love” too much. Of course it is good for me to run around and make sure Olivia is wearing the right kind of shoes and eating the right kinds of food but the best thing I can do for her is love her the way God wants me to love her. As 2nd place.