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I Came, I Saw, I Took It

~ conflicting desires and our quest to be happy ~

May 5, 2003
Recently, one of my favorite ways of describing one of our boys (on a bad day) is that he's "a desire with legs". Of course, he's much more than that -- in fact, he's a wonderful boy with a brilliant intellect and a good heart. He is, however, a teenager, which explains everything.

I'm beginning to realize that raising children provides parents with a birds eye view of the intricacies of the human heart as it grows to adulthood. Desire seems to be the vital and driving force that pushes each child along a variety of paths. Children "want" things from the moment that they enter the world and turn to their mother's breast. What's painful to observe is that their "wants" often cause them (and others) confusion and distress.

The two year old will stomp his foot and yell, "I want that toy!" If he has a brother or sister, the yell is often followed by more yells, bangs and bruises. We can patiently pick up the pieces when a child is two, but it gets vastly more difficult to be patient and loving when he's fifteen. Or twenty, thirty or forty.

What after all, is a criminal? Isn't a criminal simply a child who still adheres to the false grandeur of the Caesarian credo, "I came, I saw, I conquered"? Or, in the little boy version, "I came, I saw, I took it." Trying to conquer others by violent force is an easy choice for a man with a bratty heart who just plain "wants it now".

I've often wondered why some mothers don't spend more time providing "deep" education to their boys about life in the world of heart. As women, they generally are more sensitive to the emotions that matter, such as loving kindness. Raising a boy to be more loving than his fathers before him will help break the vicious historical cycle of men behaving badly. Raising male children to be "revolutionary" in their capacity to love would be a Good Thing, especially in countries where women are still treated as second class citizens.

My wife and I often speak to our three boys about the conflict of desires that swarm across their line of sight like mosquitoes teasing a frog. The object of their desire fills their field of vision, blotting out the sun, the future and everything else in life except a now gigantic, all consuming desire. Pokemon, the last cookie, and avoiding chores all cause aches in their soul to rival the pain of cold turkey heroin addicts.

I don't want to be unfair to boys -- girls aren't exempt from the conflict of desires. Perhaps it's the unique combination of hormones and aggression that tends to drive males to harm others physically in order to fulfill their desires. I believe that many men haven't yet lived up to their potential as human beings because of a profound lack of clarity about what they "really desire".

Males (and females) all "want" things, ranging from the next meal, to a shiny new car, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, how many people were educated as children to pray, study and reflect about their purpose in life and their relationship to the universe?

My ongoing discussion with our beloved boys and girl is that the "immediate" desire wiggling in front of them is far less important than their long range desire to build relationships of true love with their family, with other people and with God. My goal as a parent is to convince them thoroughly that the core of their being is "heart", the "desire to gain joy by giving and receiving love". If they manage to grow up and become adults who believe that expressing God's love to others is the best way to conduct themselves, my wife, Kim, and I will feel that we've "done something".

If they agree that their paramount desire is to express true love to others, they'll have a far easier time of it when they're confronted with desires that conflict with that purpose. Instead of "conquering", they'll seek to give and serve and love with kindness and compassion. They will have become humane, and thus more truly human.

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Peter Falkenberg Brown
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