Saturday, July 7, 2012

How Good Do We Have to Be? Part 5- Is there Enough Love for Everyone?

  [I started this blog series well over a year ago on Harold Kushner's How Good Do We Have to Be? and life got in the way and I never got a change to finish reviewing, let alone reading, the book. I recently recommended this book to other people which caused me to dig up this long unfinished post.]
"The Original sin that affects virtually every one of us and leads to other, worse sins is the belief that there is not enough love to go around, and therefore where someone else is loved, he or she is stealing that love from us." Harold Kushner
In chapter 6 Kushner moves on to a topic most people with siblings struggle with: sibling rivalry. I admit I fought daily with my sister (she's 2 years younger than me) over simple things like who got the last pudding cup, but I don't remember fighting over anything major like my parents' affection. My sister, however, saw it differently, she's mentioned many times how our parents loved me more than her and supported me and my endeavors. We're both in our mid to late 20's now so that resentment and rivalry has completely vanished and my sister and I are closer than we ever were. Kushner points out that the book of Genesis is a series of sibling rivalries as siblings with opposite qualities and personalities fight over their parents' affections. He also states that the Original Sin is not disobedience or lust but of hatred and resentment born out of our fear that we will not be loved enough. Kushner goes on to say that this is a fear so primal it follows us into adulthood and our pain and suffering resurfaces throughout our adult years.

As a parent of three I admit I am also guilty of subconsciously attributing certain roles to my children (e.g. good vs. problem child,  responsible vs. care free child). I believe I am more blind to these subconscious acts as the eldest who was given everything, the greatest amount of love (I don't personally believe I was given the most love I'm just illustrating how younger siblings might view the eldest). These roles given out by the parents causes all sorts of guilt and pain as the child come into adulthood. The eldest, as the responsible child, feels guilty if they ever let down their parents and resentment towards the younger for not also being able to lead a carefree life. The younger, as the carefree child, is allowed to make more mistakes but feels is not given enough love and attention as the eldest and is often negatively compared to the eldest ("why can't you be more like your big brother?" or "your big brother/sister has finished school and has a career, what have you done with your life?").

Even with all this sibling rivalry Genesis also demonstrates how we can overcome this original sin: by coming to terms with our feelings towards our siblings (and also friends, coworkers, etc.) and by understanding that love for one child doesn't negate or reduce the amount of love given to the others. Like Isaac and Ishmael coming together at their father's, Abraham's, grave and Joseph reunited with his brothers who sold him into slavery, we can outgrow the roles given to us in childhood and move past the primal fear of being unloved. That is the great thing about love there is plenty to go around, the only restrictions on love are the ones we impose on ourselves. This doesn't mean that suffering will disappear, it just means we don't have to go through it alone. We don't have to wander through life restlessly like Cain who murdered the only other person who understood what it was to fight for a parent's (i.e. God's) affection. We don't have to be alone, and in the end that's all we really want, to love and be loved.

Part 1: A Story of Emergence
Part 2: Guilt and Shame
Part 3: The Cycle of Guilt
Part 4: The Wholeness We Seek
Part 5: Is There Enough Love for Everyone
Part 6: Final Thoughts

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