“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Jesus meant what he said here—not in the literal sense of hating, but in the sense of being completely nonattached. If we are not nonattached to all manifest things, we cannot fully love God. This does not mean we no longer talk to our parents or siblings; it means that we must adjust to centering our lives on God rather than on our personal narratives. Safety lies in God; our personal narratives are completely unsafe, both for us and for others.
Our idea of safety derives from our first caregivers: they are our baseline models of love and safety, because they are the baseline for normality and home. If we believe they were safe when they were not, then we will not recognize unsafe people—at least unsafe people of a certain kind. In order to wake up to this deluded notion of safety, we need community (no isolation), questioning, alternative models, and active testing and checking of our own relationships.
My mother died just before Thanksgiving. And though her death, like all deaths, brought a lot of stress, there was also relief for all of us. She was my first caregiver, and she did not care for anyone but herself. She never changed, and never knew me. She related only with what she projected onto others. Over time, I learned that I had to change my relationship with that relationship. That meant understanding and facing what I brought to the table. That is why I called her every day for over a decade—to get clear and clean and safe, even in her presence.
My mother operated by expecting everyone else to be safe for her narrative. Because she was so emphatic and played her part so thoroughly, most people acquiesced and played by her rules. They were injured in doing this. And when she met people—men—who took advantage of her narrative to control and abuse her, she refused to take care of herself, or even see what was going on.
Her choices provide a virtual checklist in how to be unsafe: clinging to her narrative, never questioning, remaining isolated, refusing to see or hear any alternative, and refusing to put her worldview to the test. She spent her life being numb and complicitous in her own and others’ degradation—and she called that being calm, clear, and worldly.
This is how every shrunken self operates. We want and expect everyone around us to make the world safe for our idea of ourselves. “If I am unsafe”, we say, “everyone else will take care of me”. This was my mother’s litany; she had learned it at an early age from her caregivers. She never allowed herself to be conscious of that narrative and her responsibility for it, so she repeated the same story over and over again to the end. No matter how many times the players changed, the plot was always the same.
Though my mother’s chosen environment was never truly safe, it was safe for her narrative and the part she played in it. Why? Because our personal narratives sustain themselves at our expense. They are unsafe, and land us in the same unsafe environments over and over again. This is what Christ was talking about. We have to hate our narrative in order to then transcend it and be free to experience and share Love—with our parents or anyone else.
To free ourselves, we must stop looking at what everyone else is doing and turn our attention to what we bring to the table. We have to be willing to see and experience where we are internally at any given moment. When we face ourselves head-on without defense attorneys, we are safe. If we lie to ourselves about where we are internally, then we are committed to maintaining our narrative.
Facing our experience honestly is not a thought experiment. Intellectual assent is not acceptance. Acceptance involves our whole being. We must be willing to experience and name truthfully every vibration that arises within us, and then disentangle from it and still it.
If we are not safe within ourselves in this way, we look outward for safety, and we “find” it in the wrong places—the places that suit our narrative. So often, we seek safety with people who encourage our delusional notion of care. True protection is not denying the other person the chance to see evil and danger, but preventing them from being harmed by it. As parents, we must therefore not insulate our children from danger; we must teach them how to be safe within themselves and handle danger without. To do this, we have to have seen and learned from someone offering true protection. For me, this was Baba. He raised me.
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