Why Parents are Catalysts for Change
I dedicate this Thanksgiving issue, on parental acceptance, to my father, who would have been 66 today. He was the greatest parent, friend, rabbi any girl could ever have asked for. Happy Birthday Bruce. And Happy Thanksgiving everybody.
Relationships with our parents are notoriously difficult. Even after we’ve grown into adults, the same buttons still get pushed, the same grudges resurface. After years of repeatedly dealing with the same hang-ups—and for some, years of therapy—why is it so hard to accept our parents for who they are? What can we do to be better children to our parents?
There are no coincidences in this life. When it comes to the topic of family, we are each born into our situations for a specific reason. This reason is called tikun.
Tikun is a kabbalistic concept that means “correction.” In order for us to be happy and fulfilled, to reveal our potential, and to accomplish what we came to this world to accomplish, there must be a process of change we go through. Sometimes that change is effected simply by ourselves; other times it is people or events that push us in ways that force us to change. Our parents are one of our greatest catalysts for change.
“In order for us to be happy and fulfilled, to reveal our potential, and to accomplish what we came to this world to accomplish, there must be a process of change we go through.”
All the personality quirks and negative patterns created by our parents are, in fact, exactly what our souls had asked for in the upper worlds, where they chose the mother and father to whom they would be born. All the good and bad things we experienced growing up are meant to lead us towards a change that each of our souls needs to go through in order to achieve the purpose for which it came into this world.
Some of us are born to parents who judged, ignored, or hurt us. The choice for us becomes, are we going to be a slave to our past (“Why did they do this to me?”), or are we going to grow from the pain (“Why did I need them to do this to me?”) One focuses on blame and victimhood; the other puts us in control of our lives. Too often we ask the wrong why, and it becomes very difficult to move on.
“If we are responding now, as we did as children, clearly we are not growing from the situation—and we are missing an opportunity.”
We are meant to change the way we react to our parents’ behaviors. If we are responding now, as we did as children, clearly we are not growing from the situation—and we are missing an opportunity. The goal with our family is to get to a point where we can deactivate the buttons that our parents and family know all too well how to push. This is a great way to gauge how much of a correction we have made. How diminished is my reaction? How much kinder can I be, even in the face of those old patterns and habits that our parents have? If our reaction changes in small or even great ways, then we can know we are achieving our correction.
“When we realize our soul needed to come into this particular household in order to break through, to grow from, and to become the person we need to become, we begin to let go of the anger, blame, disappointment—and all the guises of the victim mentality.”
But if we are many years out of childhood and yet still blaming our parents and reacting to them in the same old ways, then we are not correcting and doing the work we came here to do. However, if we have developed and evolved, then our reaction to our upbringing will be different. When we realize our soul needed to come into this particular household in order to break through, to grow from, and to become the person we need to become, we begin to let go of the anger, blame, disappointment—and all the guises of the victim mentality. When we realize how necessary this was for us, we can then forgive and grow thankful. Ultimately, when we reach this level of thankfulness, having gone through the stages of change, transformation, letting go, growth, and forgiveness, we come to a point where we can start helping our parents.
It is easy to forget that our parents have their own tikun. They need us just as much as we need them to effect their own change and correction. We can assist them, provided we understand this concept and integrate it into our lives in a very real and practical way. Then we can open a window to shine Light into their lives.
I have one last thing to add regarding thankfulness. Sometimes there is a great opening for healing when we simply respect the fact that, whatever it is we experienced growing up, our parents gave us life and sustained us materially, if not always emotionally. How quickly we negate this fact by focusing only on the bad things they had done. That is why it is such a beautiful consciousness to have, especially during times of family get-togethers, to find those good aspects within them; to awaken a level of thankfulness for the positive things we know they’ve done, and to change our perspective so that we may see them in a new light.
When you are sitting around the dinner table this holiday, rolling your eyes and shaking your head, remember to ask yourself:
What does my soul need to learn from my family?
What beautiful qualities do my parents possess?
This will create a powerful—if not perfect—connection within your family. And it will deepen understanding of your soul’s purpose in this world.
Bibimbop, which roughly translates to “mix it up,” is essentially a rice bowl that you can adorn with whatever toppings you like. It’s a great vehicle for leftovers—a veritable ‘kitchen sink’ kind-of meal. The key is the Spicy Miso Sauce, which ties all the various parts together.