Reflections on one of my parents’ greatest virtues.
My friends sometimes ask about my childhood and family life and I generally tell them that my parents were perfect. Not, of course, that they had no flaws, but that I cannot readily identify a desirable aspect of parenting that they failed to achieve. I wish to address one of those aspects today.
In a recent Elders Quorum “Elders Quorum” is, in this context, a class similar to Sunday school but populated mostly by men in their 20s and 30s. meeting the topic trended from being a good example to being a good father. I was surprised as I listened to the comments of others that most suggested some subset of “be perfect.” Good advice if you can heed it, but less than practical for mortals such as I. And, fortunately, not essential to being a good parent.
One of the things my parents did very well was handle their own imperfections within the family. For the majority of my life I was aware not only of what virtues my parents’ lacked but also what they were doing to try to fix those flaws and how they were minimizing the negative impact of those flaws until they could be removed. The successful but ongoing effort to become good was part of everyday life.
More then a decade ago I penned the following rhyme, which seems to fit will here.
Rather than exemplify the truths which I am teaching,
My actions I will rectify by saying I am reaching—
Reaching for perfection! Yes, and each and every day
I’m trying just to do my best in each and every way.
Since leaving my family I have found a different attitude prevails. People are often perceived as having a mix of gifts and faults. Their strengths appear to be effortless and innate; their weaknesses appear to be poorly concealed and unrepentant. The sense of growth on which I thrived in my youth, the sense of everyone having achieved their strengths and actively working to rectify their weaknesses, is rare indeed.
My parents are marvelous people in many ways, but of all the many virtues they had then and the new ones they have since developed, I am most grateful for the understanding they gave me of personal and spiritual growth, of handling failures well, of repenting. Over the past decade I have often thought back on the many times and ways they taught me that lesson.
My brother dedicated his recent book
To my very nearly superhuman parents, for teaching me to love learning. All the good things in my life are pretty much your fault.
I could say much the same thing. Many of the good things in my life are of more recent acquisition, and an outside observer would claim my parents had little if anything to do with them; but it was my parents who taught me the desire, patience, hope, and perseverance needed to attain each. Anyone could have taught me erudition, but my parents ability to teach learning, development, and growth was and is, as Joseph put it, very nearly superhuman.