Did You Respond ‘Yes’?

Here is a quick yes/no quiz which will reveal important information about your personality:

  • Do you occasionally make thoughtless remarks which you later regret?
  • Are you usually concerned about the need to protect your health?
  • Is it normally hard for you to own up and take the blame?
  • Do you sometimes resent the efforts of others to tell you what to do?
  • Do your past failures sometimes worry you?
  • Do you have a small circle of friends rather than a large number of acquaintances?
  • Do you sometimes find it difficult to express your emotions?
  • Would the idea of making a complete new start cause you any concern?
  • Do you find it challenging to ‘start the ball rolling’ at social gatherings?
  • Do you ever find yourself wondering if anyone really cares about you?
  • Are there any things about yourself on which you are a bit touchy?
  • Do you sometimes put off doing things and then discover it is too late?
  • Do you ever feel that your age is against you (too young or too old)?

Finished?  Now, how many times did you answer ‘yes’?  More than 3? More than 8? What! You answered ‘yes’ to more than 10 of the questions? Well, then you clearly need to purchase our special program for social stragglers available at a special price of only $10,000.  (Just joking)  The above questions came from a Scientology questionnaire but they resemble the questions often crafted by hucksters of all kinds trying to prey on our all too human weaknesses.

It is of course easy to come up with questions that most people will identify with and to which they will nod their heads affirmatively.  Here is another good one:

Do you feel that many of your problems were caused by your parents?

There are armies of therapists, analysts and psychologists making enviably lavish livings doing nothing but listening to their clients complain about how their parents ruined their lives. Often, they encourage their clients in those beliefs.

Of course, our parents provided our DNA but it is equally true that they provided us with much more than our eye color and other biological realities.  They provided us with the start of our value system and certain character traits.  This is why we sometimes catch ourselves talking to our children in the same words that our parents used with us many years ago.

They almost certainly bequeathed us some negative characteristics against which we must struggle.  They also gave us much of our talent and our inbuilt aptitudes.  Are our lives impacted by our parents and how they raised us?  Of course, hugely.  Are we therefore condemned to relive our parents’ mistakes and passively endure any negative circumstances of our birth and upbringing?  Of course not.  Consider Abraham.

…originally your ancestors lived across the river;
Terach was the father of Abraham, and of Nachor;
and they served other gods…

(Joshua 24:2)

Abraham’s father was an idolater which helps us understand why God told Abraham:

Go away from your land, your relatives,
and your father’s house to a land that I’ll show you.

(Genesis 12:1)

Just as Abraham was not condemned by his parental background to follow into the worship of idols, neither are we forced to do anything because of our own parental background.

Because real life is complex and often messy, there are subtleties beneath the surface.  See these verses:

These are the chronicles of Terach; Terach gave birth to Abram, Nachor,
and Charan, and Charan gave birth to Lot. 

(Genesis 11:27)

Terach took his son Abram, and Lot, the son of Charan, his grandson,
and his daughter-in-law Sarai the wife of Abram his son,
and they departed together from Ur Kasdim to go to the land of Canaan;
and they arrived in Charan and they settled there.

 (Genesis 11:31)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that late in life Terach renounced idolatry and commenced a spiritual odyssey.  He removed his family from an area with bad influences but never made it to his intended destination of Canaan. Nonetheless, his effort bequeathed to his son, Abram, the ability to more willingly make a change in life.

Thus, when God eventually told Abraham to leave his family and start his own journey, Abraham was primed to do so, partially because he had seen his father doing the same thing. Efforts and changes we institute in our lives, even if they fail or are only incremental, can propel our descendants in the right direction.

Obviously our parents impact our lives.  If we were fortunate in the ovarian lottery then most of the impact from our parents is for good.  However, even in those cases, there are also inevitably some destructive elements in our legacies. Like Abraham, we each must grab the power to shape our own destinies.  We should vehemently reject the notion that we are helpless victims of our parents’ biology or mistakes. Most importantly, we should shoulder the responsibility of gifting our children with the strongest foundation we can give them.

On the television show that Susan and I enjoy hosting we often let down our hair a little, as it were.  We get a bit personal, sometimes talking about our parents and extended family.  We lovingly smile at memories, even some mixed ones, and we hope that in time, our own children will do the same.  Were some things in our lives more challenging because of our parents?  Of course. Many more things were made possible by those same parents.  They did their best for us, just as we hope we shall be seen to have done for our children.


19 thoughts on “Did You Respond ‘Yes’?”

  1. I hear alot of talk about ‘they did their best’. This is true. But that doesnt mean that you should think they always mean their best. They are still people. Always be on guard towards everyone. Especially family. ‘Fro now on a mans enemies will be from his own household’. And ‘do not trust your friend, everyone is out to slander others’.

    We go out into an evil world to shine a light. My God has shown me ehere my selfdefeating beliefs came from and smote my enemies and made me succeed in their faces.

    Turn to God, He has all the answers, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make you succeed.


  2. Those quiz questions could be summed up in one…Are you human?
    Our bodies may be dust, but keeping our eyes on God makes all the difference.

  3. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

    Dear Knox–
    It is a great blessing to have children and g’children in whom one can see the fruit of your work. America’s most successful immigrant groups are those willing to work hard so that their children and grandchildren will flourish. The least successful think only of themselves indolently enjoying the work of others.

  4. Quote of the day: ‘ Efforts and changes we institute in our lives, even if they fail or are only incremental, can propel our descendants in the right direction.’

    In my case, the changes had to be pretty wrenching, but they were (for the most part) for the better. I have seen some good outcomes in my children, and have great hopes for the grandchildren. Providence works on a long time-line.

    Thanks, Rabbi, for the hopeful words. Much appreciated.

  5. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

    Good story, Deb,
    thank you. If parents are not given any choice in their offspring, I doubt that children get any choice in their parents. Knowing what an incorrigible child I was, I probably would have chosen very odd parents. Luckily, I had no such choice. Some things it is just best to leave in God’s hands.

  6. One school of thought holds that we pick our parents before coming into this life. True or not, it makes an interesting point to ponder. Stephen Covey holds that our highest level of development is interdependence. Author Joan Borysenko has described how her struggles with her mother helped her develop into a well-rounded person. A famous old story tells of two sons of an alcoholic father, one upright and productive, the other hopelessly alcoholic. Both responded to questioning, “What would you expect with a father like mine?” Much that used to be ascribed to heredity turns out to be environmental. As always, thanks for your wisdom.

  7. Love your article. I went through several years of counseling after a breakdown about ten or eleven years ago. I was blessed to have both a counselor who was a committed Christian and a wonderful support system. Diagnosis – cumulative stress syndrome and major depression. In other words, I was a perfectionist who believed I was supposed to fix everyone’s problems. Lots more to it. But one of the most healing things my counselor had me do was write my mom’s life story from her point of view. My mom had passed away several years earlier so I had to talk to her sisters to find out some things because my mom never talked about herself. That letter was probably one of the hardest, most heart-wrenching things I ever did. But through it, I learned to see my mother and myself through new eyes. I was able to forgive her for what I had perceived as rejection toward me and I found out that my mom was actually rather proud of me. Wish we could have learned to talk to each other about deeper things before she passed, but I no longer blame her for that. I also learned that I needed to be responsible for my own happiness and that I could not be responsible for anyone else’s happiness, though I could help in small ways if asked. Many times when I read what you and Miss Susan write I am powerfully reminded of lessons learned as, with Abba’s help, I climbed out of the pit of depression and self- pity to find a fuller richer life lived trusting in my Creator who both formed me in the womb and has a plan and a purpose for my life, even now that I am older. May He bless you and your family always.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Joyce–
      Happily it sounds as if you have recovered very well indeed, thank the Lord. And this, perhaps in no small measure, due to a therapist who was a Bible believing Christian. That’s the key. Most of those serving in the mental health professions tend towards the secular/atheistic end of the scale and the damage they can do is incalculable. Just recently we have had dealings with a young man whose therapist entirely destroyed his relationship with his parents and also with two young women whose counselors persuaded them to abandon their marriages. None of these three stories is working out well.

  8. Rabbi,
    I have given up being amazed at how much your teachings and the teachings of the latter-day prophets resemble each other. I love the manner by which you and Rabbanit Susan give your offerings to me and the world, so nicely done. If I offend by placing this site within this comment, please remove it;
    but I believe it to be totally in line with your topic. Thank you, both, for teaching me through these years.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Lloyd–
      I tried and tried but simply couldn’t find a reason to be offended by your kind comment.

  9. Thanks, Rabbi and Susan, for all the wisdom you have shared with me for over five years now. Honestly, I lost count. We no longer subscribe to our satellite provider ($$$$), so there went TCT, but you are still out there on the Mighty Internet!

    As for today’s Thought Tool, I can say that one thing that makes one grow up fast is the sobering realization that you have lost both parents. It’s as if the hairy finger of Fate has just tagged you on the shoulder to say: You’re IT!

    It is easy of course to blame one’s parents for so many things, yet overall, despite whatever mistakes they made, I am thankful that mine were both Godly people who sought the Lord first. But your Ancient Jewish Wisdom my Mother would have loved. For you explain so many things natural and supernatural in the same terms she did, but you explain them even better through the magical lens of Hebrew.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks James,
      Yes, you’re right. That’s when you become an orphan. And it’s always painfully poignant. Sorry you no longer receive TCT by satellite–it’s one of the best reasons to lob hardware into space!
      But as you say, it is always available right here: http://www.tct.tv/watch-tct/on-demand-ajw

  10. Somehow between the time I was 18 -25 yrs old – my parents got very much smarter than they had ever been before I was 18 🙂

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Karen–
      your parents too? Shocking! I thought it was only mine.

  11. margery ripley

    your and susans wisdom is so comforting. love you. glenn needs you on his show again

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Margery-
      Thank you. I am in touch with Glenn and we will try and coordinate schedules for me to be back.

  12. My husband and I have watched your show for years , we would love to see past older shows on YouTube or the like. As you always say , timeless. I have a hard time finding you to watch on TCT because there posted tv schedule isn’t always correct.
    They used to have your on every night at 9:30 and we never missed.
    I love to tell my fellow Christian friends about something I learned from my Rabbi. I loved your tag line of “Everyone Needs A Rabbi”. Thank you for being such and influential person. I always encourage everyone to support Israel.
    Many Thanks.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Janet–
      Thanks for your kind comments
      I have spoken with TCT about regularizing Ancient Jewish Wisdom on their schedule and hope to have good news on this soon.

Comments are closed.

Shopping Cart