Archimandrite Andrew (Konanos): If a Child Smokes, Parents Should Blame Themselves

If a sinful man looks up to God and says, “My God, I have sinned before You, I have made such a sin. Punish me. But also say something about me. Talk to me,” He’ll reply, “Why have you committed this sin, my child?” – “Because I am a sinner” – “Yes, but why are you a sinner? I’m more interested in the answer to that question, my child.”
Do you know who God is? He is the one who constantly asks why about our actions and looks deep down to find something pure inside our souls — something that we really miss. If we had a little love, a little kindness, a little understanding, a little attention, a little confidence, a feeling that others see us in the right way, we would not have made so many grave mistakes. The Lord is looking for what we lack to point us in that direction. When He looks at your sin He does not stop at it, but keeps on looking for something deeper.

For example, a child smokes. I’m talking about smoking because parents usually think it’s a blatant offense. Yes, the child makes a mistake, we call it a sin and so on. One person says to me, “Don’t you think it’s a sin?” I say, “You’ll figure out later what I mean. I won’t tell you now.” Some people want to know for sure whether it is a sin or not. Everybody wants to put things in separate boxes; they want to be able to say, “This is a sin. That’s a good thing. And that’s a bad thing.” They did the same thing to Christ. I mean, the Lord surprised His listeners many times when they asked Him, “What is this? Grab a stone and throw it!” Then Christ said, “No, I will not. If you are good enough, throw it.” The Lord was looking at things from a different angle.

“So, why are you smoking, my child?” – “Because I’m stressed out!” – “You’re stressed out, I see. Stress is like coughing, right? Now we’re going to find out where the flu virus itself is. Let’s go deeper. Stress is not the primary problem. Why are you stressed out?” – “Because I have exams!” – “But there are other guys who also have exams but they don’t seem to worry that much.” – “I fear I won’t do well at my exam.”

Boom! We found a second word: he smokes and he’s stressed out because he’s afraid. He’s afraid, that’s why he’s stressed. “Why are you afraid?” – “Because I’ll fail the exam.” – “In other words, if you fail your exam, what will happen?” – “If I fail, my parents and teachers will humiliate me.” – “What does that mean?” – “I mean, if I fail my exams, they’ll tell me that I’m worthless, that I’m incapable and useless. It makes me insecure, it gives me the feeling that I risk losing their love, it makes me scared about my future. The day after tomorrow, when the teacher announces the result and I probably won’t pass, I won’t get love from my family, just disdain and rejection. It humiliates me. It makes me feel like I’m not worth anything. That’s why I’m afraid for the future, for losing parental love. I’ve heard it many times before, “If you don’t pass your exams, you’re useless to us.” They can also call me some kind of animal from the animal kingdom”.

The kids tell us openly about it. “The older people are talking to us harshly… It makes me sin and smoke.”

The Lord comes, looks deep into your and your child’s hearts, and tries to do what you don’t do. What is it? He wants to excuse you, to protect you, to find that love which you need, that kiss which you did not receive, that embrace which you are deprived of, that tenderness which you have not felt for a long time, that understanding which you have not had for a long time. All those things that you miss. If you had all that, you wouldn’t want to smoke or be anxious.

That’s because you would feel that you’re precious regardless of the exams. It’s natural to be worried if you got used to hearing that only those who achieve success in life, at contests, at various exams are important. The others are worthless, incapable, and unwanted. That is not what makes you precious! Everything you do is worthwhile!

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds
From Archimandrite Andrew (Konanos)’s book Love Forever

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