The Personalist Project

This video is totally sweet and funny on one level, but disturbing on another, at least if you're like me:

I'm completely impressed that, little as she is, she has the moral stuff to resist making a promise she's not sure she's willing to keep—even with her father putting pressure on her. And I realize that he is being funny, not serious. But what the heck?! 

Don't do that, fathers! Don't take advantage of your child's trust and affection to manipulate her into making promises she won't and shouldn't keep. You're messing with her conscience. You're putting yourself between her and her developing sense of right and wrong. 

You really don't want to do that.

Comments (3)

Katie van Schaijik

#1, Mar 2, 2015 9:46am

I expanded on the general point a while back, when an article at National Catholic Register called "Rules for marrying my daughter" set off all my personalist alarm bells:

Your daughter is not a better daughter if she tries to conform to your judgments and preferences. Her responsibility as a person is not to live the way you think she should, but to live the way she thinks she should. Don’t make her have to fight you off to figure out who she is and what she wants in life. Don’t crowd her discernment with your judgments. Don’t put pressure on her to see things your way. Don’t confuse her morally by acting and talking as if you know better than she does what’s best for her. You don’t; you can’t. The moral life is lived “from within.” It’s better by far for her to make her mistakes and suffer the consequences than to live into adulthood under her father’s thumb, however benevolent a thumb it may be. Just as a young man “tied to his mother’s apron strings” is crippled in his manhood, a daughter under her father’s thumb is crippled in her womanhood.

Ian Skemp

#2, Mar 6, 2015 12:14pm

Perhaps the video was mostly innocuous, but we do need more outspoken criticism of this mindset, and it needs to come from faithful Catholics. Otherwise, some may (and probably do) associate Catholicism with this domineering form of fatherhood/manhood. I never liked those lists of "10 things every man/husband must do", "How to treat a woman," etc. because they provide a list of actions, but rarely seem to mention the motivation that must be behind your actions. If you open the door for a woman, let her go up first for communion, always pay the tab, or any of the other things I've seen on lists, but don't have any love or respect for the recipient of the actions, then isn't it superficial? Not worthless, perhaps, but hollow?

I don't have a daughter (yet), but my hope is that any daughter of mine will become a mature adult who will seek my advice, but ultimately be comfortable making her own decisions. I'm responsible for nurturing that formation, but I can't do it for her. As for how I will act when a guy wants to date or marry my hypothetical daughter, I aspire to rely more on prudence than a list of rules.

Katie van Schaijik

#3, Mar 6, 2015 1:09pm

Ian, it's reassuring to me that you see it too.

I think we have a serious problem in the Christian counter-culture of promoting a domineering form of fatherhood/manhood, as you put it. 

Instead of separating the wheat from the chaff in, say, feminism, we've reacted against it (and other developments of modernity) by asserting a kind of masculinism. 

The prime aim in raising a child, I've learned (mostly by doing it badly), is to help them develop their sense of free and responsible selfhood.

The temptation for parents is to think our role is to teach them truth and constrain them to conform to it. We cripple them morally and emotionally that way.

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