What we tell our children about themselves (or what we tell others about them in their hearing range) may become what they tell themselves for the rest of their lives. Be cautious. Sometimes their own voices may override yours and maybe the voice of God will override both. But the responsibility is still ours. I do not write this to allocate blame. As adults we must gird up our loins and be responsible for our lives, even if it is hard. Still the relentless war to resist negative voices in our heads can set up a staggering tension and devastating internal conflicts that shape (or misshape) our characters and the choices we make that determine the quality of our lives and the lives of those who depend on us
Many decades ago I came out of my bedroom into the dark hall of my parents’ home. The kitchen door was shut, but through it I could hear the voice of my father telling my younger sister that she must always look out for me because he had never expected much of me. I knew it was said in love and grave concern. Still I was shocked and devastated. Even now those words sometimes ring in my ears.
My father had always encouraged me with my art and writing talent and had put me through college, all expenses paid. For that I am grateful. But after these words, I wondered if his encouragement had been only patronizing. I also wondered what I had done (or failed to do) that his evaluation of my potential was so low.
He had started in a broken home and poor, but had gone on to prosper at an early age as a radio star in the southeast. I had always admired that and wanted to be a “star” in my fields of endeavor. I had thought he would understand that in me. But I had been a shy girl who spent long hours alone writing stories and illustrating them. I did more of this than practical things. Maybe he thought I would never adapt to the real world. Maybe he thought all artists and writers starved. Maybe he thought I would never marry well because I had a limp. Maybe… Who knows?
I communicated better on paper than orally in those early days. Maybe he thought I did not have much of worth to say because of that. I was more introspective. I was trying to figure a lot of complex things out instead of acting directly on practical things. I can see that parents could be concerned about that (particularly if they were not of that temperament). Even if he had asked me some penetrating questions about what was going on in me, I am not certain I could have told him.
The world outside my imagination did seem challenging and chilly. I think it does for many of all ages. Still, I had had friends and involved myself in most of the things others of my age did. I thought he would see all that because I thought he could see everything the way God does. We cannot give others what we do not have ourselves. Because he seemed to have everything, I thought he could give me everything I needed. It was not so because no human being has everything or can give everything. I did us both an injustice in believing a lie.
My art teachers and others loaded me with cudos for my art work. However my art professor in college assessed me only as using my art as a compensation for being handicapped rather than because I possessed some important talent. I was crushed, but switched my major from art to English literature (I loved writing too). After graduating from college, I became a commercial artist, regardless, and returned to my painting and writing in my spare time. I was not the headliner in my career I had hoped to be, but it was a first step in letting my own voice overrided theirs.