An Encouraging Word – The value of separation

Father J. Ronald Knott

Father J. Ronald Knott

This is why a man leaves his father and mother… Genesis 2:24

One of the most vivid memories I had after my second parent was buried was that totally new feeling that I was no longer anyone’s child. Before then, no matter how old I got, when I went down home, I was always their second child whom they called Ronnie.

As I was driving along after the funeral, I realized that it was finally time to stand on my own two feet.

I think I made the transition quite easily compared to some since I left home to enter the seminary at age 14. I was only home for 12 weeks each summer until I left home for good at age 21. Even at that, the realization hit me after that second funeral that I was truly “on my own” going forward.

I meet many people who carry neurotic attachments to being the child-of-somebody. They transfer their parent dependency onto would-be-spouses, close friends or even co-workers.

The spiritual writer, John Sanford, calls these adults “amniotic people” whose umbilical cords are still connected. They remind me of zombies roaming the planet with an IV needle and empty bag looking for someone to plug into. Human beings are interdependent. We need each other. What I am talking about here are “dependent personalities” in a very unhealthy sense.

People who are needy, lacking in personal maturity and healthy independence, never experience a sense of personal freedom. That is why many people confuse dependency with love.

They tip their hands when they insist, “I need you!” Psychotherapists deal with this misconception on a daily basis. When people say, “I cannot live without you” they are talking about parasitism, not love.

An adult who cannot experience wholeness or function adequately without the certainty of being cared for by another suffers from pathological dependency. We all like to be cared for, but if it rules our lives and dictates the quality of our existence, we are usually incapable of love.

An old Toyota commercial used to say, “I love what you do for me!” Contrary to what that old commercial stated, real love says, “I love what I can do for you!” Only adults who can function adequately with, or without a partner, are capable of love. When people say, “I need you,” what they most probably mean is they care only that the other is there to satisfy their needs.

It is when men or women “leave” their fathers and mothers and “go out on their own for a good while,” do they have a chance to become that whole person that is necessary to become a love giver, able to lay down their lives for the good of another, be it in marriage or priesthood. Without that experience of “leaving,” they risk becoming just another one of the world’s many unhealthy parasites who beg to be taken care of.

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