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Mother knows best

Gabe Griggs | Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My father and my mother have been instrumental in shaping who I am today. Remnants of the hours spent on 4H projects, always with attention for detail and an eye towards perfection, still exist in the meticulous proofreading of papers and emails. My mother always had high expectations for me, and she was often the external stimulus for achieving those expectations.

As a particular example, my mother took away my copy of Starcraft when I was in sixth grade. At the time, of course, was frustrated with her, and I’m sure that I let her know it. Shortly thereafter, a couple of things happened: I realized my mom had my best interests in mind, and I stopped arguing with her. I joke with my friends that my mother ruined video games for me because I do not play them anymore. But in reality, I am thankful my mother had the sternness to correct me and direct my attention towards more important pursuits. I am thankful, too, that she has always expected the best from me.

I am sure many of us have similar stories. We have all been corrected at some point in our life, only to realize the person correcting us really has our best interest at heart. Of course, as with most things, coming to this realization is a gradual process. And the next step in this process has been to fully understand and appreciate why this was in my best interest.

The anecdote about the computer game serves as a microcosm of my relationship with my parents and the process of coming to understand the goodness of the lifelong habits that they were promoting. While my mother often served – and still often does serve – as the external stimulus, my father was a great cultivator of an internal sense of purpose. External stimulus is often necessary to spur us on, but in our greatest tasks, it will not be sufficient. It must be accompanied by an internal sense of purpose. For my father, I believe much of his own internal stimulus derived from his acute sensitivity and his appreciation for life.

When everything we have is seen as a blessing, how can we not live joyfully and with purpose? My father knew from a young age that his time on this earth would be limited. I do not intend to downplay his struggles with that cross, but I also believe this cross was the source of his strength. He was so gentle because he knew such pain, so patient because he knew the value of time, so curious because he could appreciate the beauty of creation and such a loving father because he realized how much of a blessing three healthy children were.

This internal sense of purpose manifested itself in many different ways. Most importantly, however, it manifested itself in the everyday encounters. As an impatient child, I often regretted asking my father what he was working on because he would take half an hour to explain it to me. One time, he was writing some code in Visual Basic. I asked him what he was doing and he spent an hour programming a calculator with me. I am very grateful for those sorts of encounters now, even though I could not appreciate them at the time.

It was through these everyday encounters that my father cultivated my internal passion for learning, a sensitivity for the needs of others and gratitude for God’s creation. Bringing this full circle, it is through the contributions of both of my parents that I am more fully able to understand the vision of life that they were pushing me towards. My mom corrected me not arbitrarily, but because she had a vision of a more fulfilling life. She knew better than I did and expected the best from me.

In this same spirit, I have learned to heed the teachings of the Catholic Church and have become ever more aware of the fullness of life that the Christ offers to all persons. It is certainly not easy to amend habits, but my experience has been that following the Church’s teachings, which is not always easy, has certainly led to a more fulfilling life.

I write not only to encourage an open mind towards the Church’s teachings – particularly those on contraception, chastity and homosexuality – but also to remind myself that I do not always know what is best. Tradition in its best form is the handing down of wisdom from generation to generation. The Catholic Church has 2,000 years worth of wisdom to share with us. We have to be humble and open to receiving this wisdom in order to benefit from it.


Gabriel Griggs is a Senior in the Program of Liberal Studies, and he is also studying Applied Mathematics. He resides at his home in South Bend, Ind.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.