Teaching What You Really Love

Once there was a father who struck his son every day. Most of the time the blows were made out of words, but other times the striking was more tangible. He did not have to look for opportunities to beat him; they appeared to arise naturally. Sometimes the father did this because he lost his temper, while at other times it occurred out of simple force of habit.

The thing that bothered the father the most was that the son did not appear to love what the father loved. He did not appear to care for the things that the father cared for. The father was very meticulous with his tools, while the son was very careless with them. The father insisted on being punctual with everything, while the son was chronically late. The father demanded that the son sit up straight at the dinner table, while the son appeared to love nothing more than slouching.

It should be obvious that the son was in the wrong on most or all of these disputes. It is better to care for your tools than not, it is rude to keep others waiting, and of course it is bad manners to droop at the table. But the more the father reproached and demanded, the worse his son got.

One day, after the son had grown, father and son had their last fight. I am not sure what it was about, but it was very much like all their previous fights, with this one exception-it was the last one they had. The son left home, never to return.

The father would think about this often, and he would torment himself with questions. Why could my son not love what I love? Finally, he sought out the counsel of a friend, something which he actually should have done many years before. When he presented this question to the friend-“Why did my son reject all that I taught him? Why didn’t he love what I loved?”—he was astonished at the friend’s reply. “Oh, but he does. He loves to quarrel.”

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