I once had a conversation with a woman who attributed much of her childhood trauma to a pair of obviously dysfunctional parents. After recounting a litany of well-rehearsed abuses, she added, “Why would I choose parents like this?” With an air of resignation she added, “I guess my soul needed this, Right?”
There was a time when I would have answered her question with an affirmative nod. I now meet such statements with a smile knowing that she, and others like her, are simply parroting an assumption that has become popular in many spiritual circles, especially those of an alternative nature.
Why, with no way of really proving this to be true, would the concept of choosing our parents appeal to so many? Probably because it follows the logic that we are spiritual beings, that our parents gave birth to our body, not to our soul. This certainly invites some interesting and spiritually productive new ways of thinking of our earthly tenure.
Let’s assume that we, not our parents, were responsible for our earthly debut. From a strictly logistical, non-emotional point of view, the choice to experience earth as a human being obviously requires a body, which also requires a set of parents. Do we choose specific individuals— warts and all—to provide this service?
If we assume that our ability to choose extends to this level, the issue is complicated with the introduction of practices like in vitro fertilization (IVF). Here, a sperm and egg can be extracted from donors, fertilized in a laboratory culture, and placed in the female body of an unrelated third party. If you happen to be the offspring of such a procedure, did you choose the donors, the third-party host, or the laboratory where the formation of your body actually started? While most of us entered through conventional doors, science has provided this interesting patch of weeds to add for our consideration.
Sticking with conventional doors, let’s focus on parents. What problems would choosing our parents solve? From my observation, people who find this concept most appealing are those who’ve had a difficult childhood. The idea of choice allows them to move from a lifetime of thinking of themselves as a victim to the much stronger, empowering position of having been the choice-maker. I’m empowered if I see myself as one having come to help others. Or, I chose them because I knew my soul had something important to learn from their dysfunctional behavior.
Both are reasonable arguments that most of us have applied to certain relationships. Who hasn’t played the role of attempted rescuer? And who hasn’t had the experience of escaping a completely dysfunctional relationship with the sworn declaration that you would never again be deceived by another wolf in sheep’s clothing?
What’s reasonable from one perspective may not be so from another. From the soul’s point of view, both arguments are problematic, primarily because they’re made from a body-based point of view. A commonly reported element of near-death research, for example, is that a person’s feeling of “coming home” supersedes even the strongest of family ties. We speak of a mother’s love for her children as the strongest in the human experience. Yet we have mothers who report their NDE confessing they would rather continue their body-free journey than return to their earthly children. This doesn’t mean they don’t love their children. Nearly all recount this experience with the remorse of admitting they even had such feelings. What these reluctant admissions tell us is that the experience they had was so vast, so beautiful that everything on earth, including these strongest bonds of love, paled in comparison. Perhaps it’s the sentiment Isaiah was attempting to capture in these verses:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
In other words, I assume this lofty vision that I believe we gain with the loss of the body is one we also possessed before we took on the body. It’s the soul’s natural mode of seeing and being. We would have viewed all souls, even those struggling with a body-related crisis (the genesis of every crisis) as having little to do with the eternal experience of the soul. With a body, we think like people. Without a body, we think like God.
So, how would God think if God were making the decision to incarnate? Laying aside the whole Jesus narrative for the moment, I’ll be bold and say, The thoughts of God would be the same as those of our boundless, eternal soul. Would we see our incarnation as a mission to fix people and save the world? Would we see it as our soul’s purpose to learn something of value from people who need fixing?
At the soul level, people are not broken. They are spiritually asleep. All so-called spiritual problems stem from having lost conscious contact with the soul. This contact is not re-established through either correcting or exposing ourselves to dysfunctional human behavior. It is established only through a concerted effort to know the truth of our being. We make this effort to the degree that we awaken to ourselves, not as the senses-based, body-oriented self-image we have believed we are, but as the eternal soul that we actually are. Most human beings will not make this shift while occupying a body. The belief that humanity is on the verge of doing so is job security to those who make their living as the self-proclaimed saviours of the human race.
How do we go forward with this issue of parental choice? Let’s say your parents, now dead, were indeed the culprit. They left you with all this damage, but you can’t tell them what you think so you’re left with the task of somehow resolving the whole thing within yourself. Becoming the choice-maker helps, but it doesn’t remove the scars. You may even find yourself duplicating the very dysfunctions you despise. What can you do?
Imagine the offending parent or parents standing before you now, free of their bodies and all the body-oriented dysfunction that defined your relationship with them. They no longer see themselves or you in the way you remember. They now see from the lofty context of the completely unfettered soul. You can see in their eyes that they deeply and sincerely apologize for the pain and suffering they may have caused. They admit that they were in a foolish, self-centered struggle for survival, with much to protect and much to hide. You were in a relationship with them when they believed cheating, stealing, lying, predation, manipulation, and creating false pretenses were necessary for survival and social acceptance. They admit that the self-image they perpetuated was the short-sighted product of a consciousness void of understanding of who and what they were at the deepest level. If they had known then what they know now, everything would have been very different.
Is this an exercise of letting irresponsible parents off the hook? No. It’s a way of saying, if you insist on holding the belief that you choose your parents, then these are the parents you might consider choosing.
3 thoughts on “Do We Choose Our Parents?”
I am almost 80 years old and have had a pretty good life, though not one of luxury. I think I will be ready to go when the time comes, but I can’t really imagine that I would want to come back. Looking around me, I see much more evil and violence than well-being and happiness. It’s as if most of us are living in Hell. Even the planet seems to be in a constant turmoil. Why would anyone want to take on a new body and experience another lifetime here?
If we choose to come back, we’ll certainly have our reasons. If we choose not to, we’ll have our reasons for that as well. Few of us would want to revisit hardships we’ve encountered, but I’m sure if we do come back, we’re aware, as Bob Dylan wrote, “Behind every beautiful thing, there’s been some kind of pain.”
If at any given moment you take a walk through your neighborhood, you will see more well-being and happiness than evil and violence. Turn on the news and you’ll see the opposite. In our lifetime we’ve seen a major transformation in the media industry. It’s 24/7 of mostly the worst of humanity – namely politicians seeking re-election who will do and say whatever it takes to get in or stay in power. If we turn off the television and take more quiet walks, perhaps we’ll recapture that side of humanity that we feel we’ve lost. I’m not suggesting we stick our heads in the sand. I’m suggesting we see what happens when we lift them out of the toilet.
Thank you, Doug. I probably spend too much time away from real people, and I haven’t petted a cat in MONTHS!