Chanukah. The festival of lights. The luminous candles add light at the time of year that darkness increases as daylight dwindles to a minimum.
Light or lack of it affects us in many ways. We perceive colors according to how the light falls on them. Our moods are also affected by light or darkness. We often associate the contrast between light and darkness to portray situations.
In this article, I’d like to share insights of two influential Jewish philosophers relating to light, and how these thoughts are interpreted in the dynamics of the parent-child relationship.
The Baal Shem Tov: “A small amount of light can illuminate immense darkness”.
Darkness is lack of light. Therefore, even a little bit of light can repel a lot of darkness. Practically speaking, it’s enough to focus on even a slim ray of a flashlight to navigate through a dark cavern. The overwhelming darkness isn’t significant as long as you follow the light, meager as it may seem to be.
The key is what we’re focused on, the light or the darkness.
This concept can be adapted to our way of looking at things in general. Let’s take the classic ’empty half’ versus the ‘full half’ of the cup. It’s how we perceive it. Is our outlook aimed at the empty half or on the full half? Focusing on the full enhances it, and consequently the essence of the empty half dissipates.
Similarly, focusing on even a meager ray of light and not on the surrounding darkness is what helps to overcome even what clearly seem to be insurmountable obstacles.
Sometimes a child’s behavior can be annoying or aggravating. This provokes the parent to react, usually by expressing or even just feeling displeasure. However, most parents can attest to the fact that even the most difficult child has his ‘moments of grace’ that cause pleasure and joy to the parent and to his surroundings. It may not be constant or often but nevertheless, it exists. It’s a ray of light; it’s the ‘full half’. While counseling parents I’ve often seen that when a parent ‘chooses’ to focus on the ‘illuminating/full half’ moments, the dynamics begin to change. Seeing the child in a different light is empowering for the child as well as for the parent. It enables the darkness to recede as the newly found light begins to illuminate the dynamics of the relationship. From there the sky’s the limit.
Rav A.Y. Hacohen Kook: “Every person should know that within him glimmers a candle”
The ‘candle’ glimmers from the moment a child is born. He retains it throughout his life, no matter what kind of person he develops to be. Being aware of this inner light and goodness is the guide to grasping what lies beyond what is seen on the surface. Even if it may seem otherwise, knowing that this inner light exists enables us to trust him.
This concept as well can be applied regarding the dynamics with our children. Parents oftentimes contend with issues that present the child in a negative light, usually as a result of his behavior. Being aware of, even in the most difficult of situations, that the eternal candle glows within, enables a different outlook at how the child can be perceived. It can truly take the sting out of difficult and exasperating dynamics. Knowing that the candle glows enables the parent to believe in the child. It’s the game-changer for the parent as well as the child. From there too the sky’s the limit!
Most importantly, we should always remember the candle that flickers within ourselves. As parents, believing in ourselves is the ray of light that guides us through thick and thin in any situation, dark as it may be.
With the hope of adding light to ourselves, our families and our lives. Happy Chanukah!