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Overcoming Resentment Toward Our Parents

Jul 7, 1997

I am 31 years old and am a Singaporean Chinese. I was married in 1993 to a guy 2 years my senior.

I was fostered out to a foster family when I was just 3 days old! My foster family gets paid every month from my natural parents (though the paltry sum they paid eventually decreased throughout the years) until it was really my foster parents who "subsidized" and paid for some of my things.

My childhood -- I remember it as confusing and hurtful. My natural mum is a compulsive gambler and she used to USE ME AS AN EXCUSE in order to go to the gambling dens! She rarely visited me (only once in several months) and when she did, put me into a corner of the gambling den without drink NOR food until she had finished her mahjong which was usually WAY PAST MIDNIGHT! This is only one of the many other horrid times I had with her! As for my natural father, he was one steeped in feudal values and who hated girls and thought girls were useless! For that stupid reason, he forbade me to advance to University.

I am lucky to be married to a man who loves me very much! However, I do not plan to have any kids because I don't think I know how to love a child. I remember my childhood as one of cutting remarks and hurtful incidents -- remarks which pierced my heart to the very core!

In the Chinese context of child-parent relationships, a child is supposed to be obedient and filial toward her parents! But what about the parents? Aren't they supposed to love and nurture their kids too?

It was only last year in 1996 that I began questioning parental values and love. I cannot forget the way my natural parents treated me. Why choose to give birth to me if they don't love me??? Why? It would have been better if they had simply aborted me! I am their flesh and blood, why did they choose to hurt me with their cutting and insensitive remarks? When I was a kid, I saw my friends who had loving parents who doted on them, and how I envied them.

I cannot get the resentment off me! WIth my hubby's help, I have become stronger now and no longer cry when my natural parents hurt me with their words! Nowadays, I do not visit them at all except during Chinese New Year. I am now thinking of cutting all ties with them if possible! I cannot cannot cannot possibly FORGET the way they treated me when I was growing up! My husband says my natural parents have "softened" a little -- especially my father -- but it is too late, don't you think so? 31 years of being unloved and now they want to try to be a little nicer to me? Whatever for?? It is way too late -- I am already hardened by all those hurtful words and acts in the past. Please advise.

For your info, I have now stopped work and am applying to enter university in Perth. I get a 1 1/2 year full exemption because of my diploma. What I have now is the result of years of toil and hard work -- I did not get a single cent from my parents. My natural parents DOTED on my eldest brother who happened to be BORN a BOY! He got the best of everything -- money + love + everthing else!

I read your email very carefully. I'm very sorry to hear about your experience!

I'm glad to hear that you're on your way to college in Perth. The change of venue may be very refreshing for your life. I'm also glad to hear that you have a husband who loves you. You're very lucky that you do.

My experience was not as severe as yours, but I can say that my father - although physically present - was heartistically absent from my childhood. He never expressed love to me after I was seven.

You are very right about the fact that parents are obligated to love their children. Filial piety is a child's natural response to overwhelming love from her parents. Parents who don't love their children have no right to demand filial piety from them.

I respect many parts of Chinese culture and Confucian values, but I also believe that the internal values of unselfish heart and love transcend those traditional values. The way of relationships in a family does need a certain "order", but beyond the external order, internal "heart" should be the driving force in a family.

I like the definition of heart which says, "Heart is the desire to gain joy by giving and receiving love."

When my wife, Kim, and I argue (which we hope is never), although Confucian ethics would say that the wife should follow the husband, there is an even higher order. If the husband is the leader, who or what is the leader of the husband? How can a husband (or a father) be qualified to be a leader?

Kim and I like to put it very simply. Although it sounds informal, it has a very real impact in our life. We just tell ourselves that, "True love is the boss."

In other words, true love, or "unselfish love" is the supreme ethic that guides our lives. The wife AND the husband must bow down to the ethic of true love. It's the same for parents. If the father or mother do something that violates the ethic of true unselfish love, then they're simply wrong. Period.

If, on the other hand, any of us adopt and practice the ethic of giving to others, serving others, and loving others unselfishly, then we automatically gain "authority" in relationship to other people. The great thing about this is that, by the very nature of true love, we would then never misuse our "authority", but instead do all we could to bring happiness to others, and guide them toward the way of true unselfish love.

This concept goes beyond race, nationality, or religion. Whatever one believes, in terms of religion, I think that one can search the world over and never find an ethic or value that has more beauty, peace, power, or eternal impact than the ethic that says, "Please let me give to others, serve others, and love others more." I tell my children that unselfish love is the most powerful force in the universe.

I also personally believe that humankind was created by God, and that even though there are many bad parents in the world, the mere fact that there are good parents, and that true love really does exist, demonstrates that logically the God who created that aspect of life must have the attributes of unselfish love inside His own heart. Otherwise, how could He create them?

For this reason, I think the real long-range power that we can find in our life comes about from examining and getting to know the heartistic situations, sadness, and desire to love, that God is experiencing. I really do believe that He is the First Parent for all of us, and that He is one that we can absolutely trust. He's seen it all, through thousands of years of bloody and mournful history.

In any case, even if one doesn't believe in God or religion, the ethics of true love are a life-giving formula for our life.

Ultimately, I prefer to look at parents such as yours, or mine, as victims of their own parents, who didn't know what they were doing. They're sad and pathetic, in a way.

For that reason, I try to take the position that I will give love to them, as THEIR parent, and try to delicately guide them to understand heart and love. It's easier to forgive them, if we realize how miserable and confused and ignorant they have been.

Because "true love is the boss", I also think that it's appropriate to draw a line, and not necessarily follow our parent's way or direction, if their actions and opinions violate true love. I think that is true filial piety.

I pray for you success in life! I think that with your experience, and sense of heart, you'll be a very good mother. You know what you shouldn't do.

Peter Falkenberg Brown is passionate about writing, publishing, public speaking and film. He hopes that someday he can live up to his favorite motto: “Expressing God’s kind and compassionate love in all directions, every second of every day, creates an infinitely expanding sphere of heart.”

~ Deus est auctor amoris et decoris. ~

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Peter Falkenberg Brown
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