There’s a lawyer I know who hates Valentine’s Day. He doesn’t like anyone telling him what to do and when corporate America tells him that on February 14th of each year he has to prove his love to his wife by buying her a card, candy, flowers, a “Vermont Teddy Bear,” a “Pajamagram,” jewelry, or some other romantic gift, he becomes outraged.
During the first several years of his marriage he refused to even buy his wife a Valentine’s Day card, but he finally broke down a few years ago and started buying her a card and giving her extra attention on Valentine’s Day. Prior to that, even though his wife knew how he felt, she still got her feelings hurt every year when he didn’t make an extra effort to show love and affection toward her on that one day in February. Rather than fight a losing battle each year, he finally gave in and started buying her a card every year. Because he was “forced” to give in, he now hates Valentine’s Day more than ever.
Last week, I gave you my definition of a belief: “A hypothesis, theory, or concept that has been constructed by the mind and accepted as true.” The husband and wife I just described to you have certain beliefs about Valentine’s Day that they (long ago) accepted as true. Those beliefs are permanently glued into place and will most likely never change. But whose beliefs are correct – the husband’s or the wife’s?
The husband can give some very compelling reasons why Valentine’s Day is nothing more than one big commercial enterprise whose sole purpose is to guilt people into buying gifts for loved ones. Regardless of how well the husband is able to explain his position, if he fails to honor his wife on Valentine’s Day, she is going to be offended by his “thoughtless” behavior.
Beliefs are like drugs. They are highly addictive and can take over the minds (and lives) of their victims. What happens to an addict when you try to take what he’s addicted to away from him? He becomes combative, emotional, irrational, defensive, and may even become physically abusive.
The same thing happens when you try to break someone of a strongly held belief. We humans are addicted to our beliefs and we behave like an addict when our beliefs are questioned or attacked. We become combative, emotional, irrational, and defensive, and may even become aggressive and abusive toward the person who has challenged our beliefs.
So what happens when someone tries to break us of one of our strongly held beliefs? We immediately discredit and marginalize the person, and then we proceed to put the person in the same category as all of the other “wackos.” We develop contempt for the person because he or she is trying to “manipulate” us. Any relationship we had with that person becomes strained and, depending on the circumstances, may eventually end up being irreparably broken.
Most beliefs are constructed out of thin air as a result of the influence of the people we grew up with, our past experiences with family members, friends, and peers, and the teachers, books, magazines, music, television shows, and movies we were exposed to.
One of the only good memories I have of my first year in grade school was Valentine’s Day. Prior to that day, we were told to bring enough valentines to school for everyone in the class. During one of our classes, we were instructed to sit at our desks and write notes to each of our classmates on the valentines. Ten minutes before the end of the class, we were allowed to walk around the classroom and hand out our valentines. The exercise gave each of us an opportunity to not only give recognition to our fellow classmates, but to also receive recognition from those same people.
Every year my youngest daughter, Teresa, who is now 14 years old, takes the time to create elaborate handmade valentines for all of the members of our family. She also honors each of her grandparents with handmade valentines. Why does she do this? Her behavior is obviously a reflection of her beliefs and her desire to express her love to the people who are important to her.
This morning, Georgette gathered up some supplies and went over our daughter Anna’s house so she could sit down with our two granddaughters and help them create handmade valentines for the people they love. The granddaughters, Kathryn and Mary, are both under the age of 5 years old. Because of their grandmother, they are learning a cultural tradition that goes back hundreds of years. Whether or not Georgette realizes it, she has started the process of constructing a concept in their minds that will eventually be accepted as true.
Now I can assure you that Georgette’s intention was not to go to my daughter’s home for the purpose of surreptitiously instilling some unacceptable beliefs into the minds of her grandchildren. Georgette made the decision to do what she did because she places a high value on strong and loving relationships. Her behavior was her way of showing love and affection toward her granddaughters while, at the same time, teaching them how to show love and affection toward the people who are important to them. (As a side note, it didn’t even occur to me that I should take the time to teach my grandchildren about Valentine’s Day. I am, however, looking forward to the day when I can teach my grandson how to wrestle and shoot a gun.)
If it’s important to pass on beliefs to our children and grandchildren that will help them to enhance the relationships they have with others, how much more important is it to pass on beliefs that will help them to enhance the relationship they have with their Creator?
In today’s day and age, a large percentage of parents and grandparents have abdicated (i.e., relinquished and renounced) their responsibility to instill within their children and grandchildren: (1) an ironclad belief in God and the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church; (2) a life of daily prayer; (3) a love of family; and (4) a strong work ethic.
The teaching of these critically important beliefs and behaviors, through word and example, has to begin when a child is born. They cannot be delegated. If we can teach a 2 year old child about Valentine’s Day, we can certainly start teaching her how to pray.
Well, like usual, I’ve put it off until the last minute. I’ve got to get going now so I can buy Georgette a Valentine’s Day card. Talk to you next week.
Off the record, but amusing: I BELIEVE in prayer. While in the classroom, I started each morning having one of my students “lead” with a brief “Life of the Saint” for that day. On Valentine Day – Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, my 5th grade leader read:
“February 14th, Feast of St. Cyril the Methodist”. I BELIEVED in his sincerity…after he read the prayer, we had a gentle instruction in pronunciation and identification of the two Saints!!
Harry, I just thought you’d enjoy one of my fond memories!
Again, thank you for your writings! Sister Roberta
Thanks for sharing your memories. Do you keep in contact with any of your former students?