Do Children Need Religion?
For healthy psychological development, kids need to know there is something greater than themselves.
My early spiritual training was a little rough around the edges. Yet at least there was something there-a foundation on which to build my spiritual life. I was given a sense of divinity and an eye for all things sacred. I am not the center, but rather, a necessary part of a great whole. My participation in goodness and love and acting on what is right furthers my sense of self and God more than all the awards, accolades, and accomplishments I could ever accumulate in a lifetime.
By contrast, those who are fixated on entitlement are trapped in a lonely, fearful, winning-is-everything world. Their sense of self is so grandiose that true intimacy and love are replaced by control and manipulation. I can't even imagine the aloneness of a "self-only" existence. Arrogance replaces confidence, and expectations replace caring. All sense of community is buried in an extreme need for gratification that can never be satisfied for more than a few fleeting moments. The goal is to fulfill the needs of the self, first and always. A person with entitlement fixation doesn't ever experience empathy and connection.
I have given great thought to the antidote for this affliction, and I believe that the answer lies partly in one simple concept: humility.
Humility is a forgotten lesson. We have confused humility with humiliation and have fought hard to protect our young from its pain. Humility is the concept Mother Teresa tried to convey when she said, "I am just God's little pencil." It is surrender and openness, all in one glorious, spiritual moment. I am humbled when enveloped in a magenta sunset. I am humbled by the amount of overwhelming talent in my small town and in the awesome devotion of all the volunteers to service I meet. I am humbled by the vastness of all things greater than I, yet I am confident and competent in meeting the challenges of my life.
Children need to know that the knowledge gained in failure can outweigh the feelings of "me first." There can be true rejoicing in another's success. Being a part of something greater is better than being noticed. Giving brings its own peace. God is not an abstract concept, but a sense that needs to be nurtured and developed before it can be experienced. It is our humility that allows us to be happy for others and foster their highest good. My parents, though clumsy at times in their lessons, didn't dote on me. Instead, they gave me something I can cherish.
Don't neglect your child's spiritual development. Any foundation is better than none. The lessons of self-discipline, humility, community, and God are all worth any resistance you may encounter. This is our job as parents and role models. This legacy is our best.