Wednesday, August 1, 2007

B. Why The Problem Exists

B. Why The Problem Exists

I wonder why so many parents have trouble expressing love to members of their own family? Obviously, there are many reasons for this behavior. Some are probably complex. However, a few of the following reasons seem to apply:

1. Makes Person Feel Weak
Over the years many have been taught that men and women have very different roles in family life. Men for example, have traditionally been the providers and protectors of the family but show very little love and affection. Expressing love is not the manly thing to do. Men view themselves as weak if they express or show love. Women, on the other hand, are to take on a nurturing and loving role.

Sandy’s Grandfather
A friend shared an excerpt from her grandfather's journal, which clearly emphasizes this point. As a young man, he had a strong desire to leave his native Norway and come to America. He recorded,
"In the fall of 1922, four other boys in the neighborhood and I decided to go to America. It took several months to get our papers ready.
In January 1923, we were ready to leave home. On the morning I was to leave, my mother came upstairs at 4 am to wake me up. As I lay there, she knelt by my bed and put her arm around me with her cheek against my cheek, and told me how she loved me and how she would miss me. She told me to be a good boy. She felt that she would not see me again in this life.
I had been taught never to cry or show emotion, but at that moment I wanted to put my arms around her. Unfortunately, I let them lie still by my side under the covers. I didn't say or do anything, because I was a man. How could I be so soft to put my arms around my mother, or maybe cry and tell her how I loved her? I couldn't do that. It wasn't manly. How I have regretted that moment all these years?
I got up, and she walked me 2 miles in the knee-deep snow to the bus stop. She helped me carry my suitcase. When I got on the bus, I shook hands with my mother and said goodbye. Now for 52 years I have regretted all this.
Thirty-eight years after I came over to this country, I had a chance to go back to Norway for a visit. My mother had died eighteen years before. The first thing I did the first day I was there was to go to the graveyard. I didn't know where the graves were located. I searched up and down the rows till I finally came to the graves of my mother and father. I stood there and looked at them for a minute, and all my past days were going through my mind, especially the last day I saw my mother.
I knelt down and put my arms around the marker. I put my cheek against her name, and those tears that I should have shed 38 years earlier were shed there. I was not such a big man after all..."
How unfortunate that this young man had been taught to "never cry or show emotion." I wonder who taught him that it "wasn't manly to show emotion or say the words I love you?" Obviously, it was not from his mother. I can just imagine this good brother with his arms around the tombstone expressing the words of love he wished he would have said the day of his departure for America.
We can learn a valuable lesson from this story. As parents, and as sons and daughters, we need to continue or learn to show love and affection to family members. This can be a great protection against temptation. Research has shown that youth who have love expressed to them daily by their parents are much less willing to engage in illicit activities than those who never hear those words. And yet far too many parents (especially fathers) either never tell their children they love them or only do so occasionally. Perhaps some may think that their children (especially teenagers) have outgrown the need to be told they are loved. Research from the past proves this is not the case. It may be that some do not want to be told in public – in front of their friends – but they do want and need to be told in the family realm.

2. Because We Weren’t Told

My Father’s Family
In some cases neither mother nor father is affectionate and loving. My father spent his early years in a logging camp in Louisiana in a family with 11 children. His father was an alcoholic and often physically abused his children when he was drinking. He was not affectionate with any of his children and never told them they were loved. My grandmother, unfortunately, was not affectionate either. There were no hugs, kisses or expressions of love from her. Although my grandfather died when I was a small child, I lived close to my grandmother until I was ten years old. Thinking back, I never remember her hugging me or telling me that she loved me. In fact, I never remember her even talking to me.
My father never remembers sitting in his mother’s lap or her telling him he was loved. He said he did remember sitting in his father’s lap one time. While I was growing up, the tradition continued. My father never verbally told me he loved me, although he did many things to demonstrate his love. I didn’t realize until much later in life that I had never told him I loved him either. To do so would have seemed very awkward and uncomfortable since he had never told me. It wasn’t until he was on his death bed that I was able to finally say the words “I love you” to him. Even then it felt strange and unnatural.

3. We Think They Already Know

John Powell Experience
Another common problem is the assumption that family members should know they are loved; therefore there is no need to express it. However, when love is left unexpressed, family members are left to wonder. John Powell wrote of an interesting experience the day his father passed away.
“It was the day my father died… In the small hospital room, I was supporting him in my arms, when… my father slumped back, and I lowered his head gently onto the pillow. I… told my mother… ‘It’s all over, Mom. Dad is dead.’ She startled me. I will never know why these were her first words to me after his death. My mother said: ‘Oh, he was so proud of you. He loved you so much.’
Somehow I knew… that these words were saying something very important to me. They were like a sudden shaft of light, like a startling thought I had never before absorbed. Yet there was a definite edge of pain, as though I were going to know my father better in death than I had ever known him in life.
Later, while a doctor was verifying death, I was leaning against the wall in the far corner of the room, crying softly. A nurse came over to me and put a comforting arm around me. I couldn’t talk through my tears. I wanted to tell her:
‘I’m not crying because my father is dead. I’m crying because my father never told me that he was proud of me. He never told me that he loved me. Of course, I was expected to know these things. I was expected to know the great part I played in his life and the great part I occupied of his heart, but he never told me.’ ” (The Secret of Staying in Love, Niles, Ill.: Argus, 1974, p. 68.)

Joe Christensen’s Father-in-Law
Joe J. Christensen shared this all too common problem: “Once when my father-in-law was leaving the house after lunch to return to the field to work, my mother-in-law said, “Albert, you get right back in here and tell me you love me.” He grinned and jokingly said, “Elsie, when we were married, I told you I loved you, and if that ever changes, I’ll let you know.” It’s hard to overuse the expression, “I love you.” Use it daily.” (Ensign, May 1995, 65.)

4. They Should Realize By Our Actions
Some believe that love is expressed in ways other than saying the words. While visiting in New York, I heard a lady talking to some friends about raising children. She said, “When I yell at my kids, I do it because I love them.” I could tell that she was sincere and not trying to be funny. She went on to say, “I tell them when they complain about my yelling that when I stop yelling, you will know that I don’t care. As long as I’m yelling at you, then you will know I love you.” I’m not sure that most family members are going to correlate yelling with love.
Other parents believe that since they do so much for their children and buy them so much that there is no need to say “I love you.” After all, they provide food, shelter, clothes and put gas in the car. I doubt seriously that a typical teenager gets into the family car and thinks, “My dad must really love me since there is gas in the car.”


Jan said...

Again -- 100% agreement. Kids don't think through to understand that their parents show their love by their actions -- I completely believe they need to HEAR the words and feel the arms around them regularly.

Kristi said...

I think the assuming that they already know is a biggie. But, if I need to hear it often from family, my kids most certainly do!