“Why does a man want his children to be better than himself?”

Pg 225 – They Thought They Were Free
“All the time, I knew all the time that I was damned, damned worse every day. But I wanted my children to be Christians.”
“Why, Herr Kessler?”
“Why does a man want his children to be better than himself?”

Such a superb question.  “Why does a man want his children to be better than himself?”  I am not even a father yet and already I am trying to set up my life, my wealth and possessions so that my children will have opportunities and growth beyond what I had.  I do not complain of, or belittle my own upbringing, I love who I am and I love how I was brought up.  But even still, I want my children to do better than I did.

There is probably some fatherly sense of “living vicariously” through your children, to see them do what you wanted to do or be.  If you enjoy baseball, it’s natural to hope for a baseball star of a son.  It is really only unhealthy if the kid isn’t so inclined and as a father you continue to press the matter into rebellion.  As a future father, I think it will be challenging to not press my traits and desires on my children, to not attempt to live my life through them.  But of course I want them to be better than me, they will be most likely my primary legacy; I just need to foster their own uniqueness as well as the traits we share.

If I had a truer understanding of people and the world, I would probably say the same thing about everyone.  “I want everyone to be better than myself.”  Not meaning that I am a horrid individual, but that I – even with as highly that I think of myself – should want that everyone had already surmounted my difficulties.  I would be better off in a society like that, even if I was the worst individual.  However, I don’t want that; my understanding of the world isn’t full and I have blinders on still.  My competitive edge is too high that, even though I’d be better of in absolute terms if everyone was better than me, in relative terms it would stink and thus given the choice I’d prefer to be better than everyone else, or at least have some below me.  This is not the healthiest, or very christian of viewpoints and something I need to work on.

This post is a continuation of a long series of commentary on quotes pulled from They Thought They Were Free, the Germans 1933-45 by Milton Mayer.  The book itself is home to a lot of revelations to the nature of people and I do recommend reading it.  For additional reading please see the short review of the book itself and a list of other commentary like this post.

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