Love of Parents and Love of Children

By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo

Whom should we love more our parents or our children?  St. Thomas Aquinas raised this question in his book Summa Theologiae and gave two answers.  First, from the point of view of the object of love or to the person whom we are to love, he says, the more the object of love is like God, the more it is to be loved.  Therefore, a man ought to love his father and mother more than his children because he loves his parents as his principle or origin of life, a more exalted good, and more like God who gives life to all of us.

On the other hand, the degrees of love may be measured from the standpoint of the lover; and in this respect a man loves more that which is more closely connected to him, thus, a man’s children are more lovable to him than his parents.  So, the answer if this were a sport, the score would be one all, in a way equal.  Dr. Peter Kreeft would say, “It is natural and right to love your parents more in one way and to love more your children in another.”  So, it all depends on which point of view.

Our parents are more like God to us.  They gave us life, time, nourishment, education, etc.  We can’t possibly pay them back; we can only “pay it forward” to our children.  God invented parents to do his work, beginning with “procreation”, then continuing in “pro-education”, “pro-nourishing” and all the rest.

On the other hand, your children are dearer to you than your parents are.  You are united to your children in a way that is more intimate and more free than the way in which you are united to your parents because you gave birth to them.  The analogy is that God loves us more than we love Him—infinitely more because God has an infinite nature.  God’s love directed towards us is more intimate than our love directed towards Him. Thus, a parent’s love is more intimate towards his or her children than any other love.  Because of this intimacy, it is easier to fail to love our parents than to fail to love our children.  That is why there is a commandment that mandates us to love and respect our parents, but not to children.  But Dr. Kreeft would say, because of the rampant abortion of children nowadays, there should also be a commandment against murdering, neglecting, harming and abusing children.

Our instinct to love our parents is strong but easily broken, especially at two periods in life:  teenage years when teens naturally desire their independence and by middle-aged children of physically and especially mentally weakened aging parents who appear burdensome.  Here, in the Philippines where there are still strong family ties, we rarely have cases of middle-aged children abandoning their parents.  In the Western countries, children would put their parents in the home for the elderly when they become weak and sickly and these old parents would often complain that their children would hardly visit them.

In the West likewise, human life has become cheapened and cheapened in both ends.  Parents are killed by euthanasia, whey they become a “burden” to their children; and children are killed by abortion, when they become a “burden” to their parents.  All societies in past generations would be horrified by these two sins, being the most heartless and inhuman sins possible.  To kill your parents is to kill yourself, your own past; and to kill your children is to kill yourself, your own future.  In the past, people kill for political, personal grudge, or other seemingly “honorable” reasons but to kill people because they are a burden is equating people to things, as Pope Francis would lament, we are a “throwaway culture”; not just throwing away items but throwing away life too.

The best way to combat this “culture of death” as St. Pope John Paul II would put it, is to renew and strengthen our love for both our children and parents.  We have to love most those who are closest to us.  This is one of the greatest joys in life, love for our family, and likewise the most effective paths to our sanctification or becoming saints.  For whatever we do to those who are ours, we do to ourselves, just as whatever we do to Christ’s brothers, we do to Him.