More and more I am realizing how much society is driven by parents. I don’t just mean our society – but all societies ever. I don’t think there is any stronger, deeper, or more natural urge out there than that of a parent looking after his/her children. I am 4’10”, not aggressive, not particularly strong, but I am very confident that if a large human, animal, or object was imminently endangering my kid within my sight, it would be getting through a heck of a fight from me first. That’s not because I’m an awesome parent; the instinct is so ingrained it’s almost primitive.
So what does this have to do with anything?
Lately, I’ve been looking at just about everything going on in the world, both present and past, through this lens. As you may or may not know, humans are complex, multi-dimensional creatures. One simple, shared objective such as “Protect my children” can result in billions of different outcomes. Yet, if we let it, this shared objective can help us understand the actions of others, even across the barriers of language, culture, and time.
Still not making much sense?
Think of it this way. Muslim disdain for the West? We’re infecting their kids’ minds with completely counter-cultural values. The Hippie movement? Children raised by parents who wanted to protect their kids from anything close to fascism. The rise of materialism? Marketing geniuses coupled with parents wanting to protect their kids’ happiness. Most wars ever fought? Both sides have soldiers trying to keep their kids fed, and ideologues telling the citizens their kids won’t be safe and free without it. Everything happens for a reason, and the strongest reasons start at home and in the heart.
Now, I want to make sure I point out that I’m talking about broad social and cultural stuff here… I fully realize that, on an individual basis, we can get stuck with parents who seem to lack these instincts, or as parents we can have trouble locating them. Both of these things have such a variety of experiential and psychological explanations, I’m going to leave them alone. I promise I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad. I’m just trying to help us understand each other. Moving on…
Take a moment and think about a people group you don’t like or understand. Is it Republicans? I think they want their cash going to their kids instead of the government. Is it Democrats? I think they want to know there’s a safety net bigger than themselves that will be available when their kids need it. Is it Christians? I think they want their kids to be kept safe for eternity. Is it atheists? I think they want to make sure their kids aren’t relying on false hopes. Rich people? Want to provide for their kids. Poor people? Want to provide for their kids. Everywhere and all throughout history, what I see are lots of different kinds of parents wanting their kids to grow up safe, healthy, wise, and happy. Civilization itself was doubtlessly built on no less.
Obviously, people have more reasons for doing what they do than their kids, but there are few other reasons that will ever allow a person to feel more doubtlessly self-affirmed. Doing something just for your own gain doesn’t give you the same righteous fighting fury as doing something to protect your kids. It just doesn’t. And of course, good intentions don’t automatically lead to good actions. We’re all blinded and ignorant in one way or another. But we can make ourselves just a little better, just a little less blind, if we take the time to understand, “They’re not thinking about what I’m thinking. They’re thinking about their kids.”