The family we no longer recognize: Confronting the results of becoming who we were taught to become
To My Older Relative,
I’m writing to let you know that I’m aware of what you think of me, either because you’ve told me during combustible room-clearing conversations, over terse cold war text exchanges, or in second-hand words passed through the people who now serve as the sole messengers between us.
You believe I’ve changed.
You think I’ve become radicalized by the Left, that I’m a bleeding-heart Liberal, that I’m an anti-Jesus, anti-American baby-killing heretic, determined to destroy the fabric of this nation with socialism, homosexuality, and wide-open borders.
You think I’ve abandoned my faith and my family and you’re really disappointed with me — and I have to tell you that you’re partially responsible.
You say that I’ve changed, and I guess I have: I’ve become the person you taught me to become when I was growing-up.
I’ve become a person who is deeply offended by inequity, a person who looks out for the underdog, a person who finds the beauty in the diversity around me, a person who wants other people to have what I have, a person aware of how fortunate I am to live here, a person trying to love my neighbor as myself, a person who detests liars and predators and con-men.
And the person that I’ve become, in large part because of the wisdom and compassion you poured into me as a child, can’t fathom as an adult how you’ve voted for Donald Trump twice, and how you still support him now.
It’s unthinkable to that younger version of me that you would have embraced this man: his cruelty, his depravity, his petty, vengeful, unloving heart.
That’s not the way you raised me and so whatever issues you have with me now, you need to understand: You made me this way.
I’m really proud of the person I am today and I’m grateful for the time you spent with me; the lessons you taught me about seeing all people as inherently valuable, about being a person of your word, about telling the truth even when it’s costly, about admitting your mistakes, about apologizing, about valuing people over money, about how we treat people being what defines us.
I was paying attention. I was listening. I believed you. I did what you told me to do and I became who you told me to become — and so now I care about the world and I despise evil and I live open-hearted and open-handed.
And that’s why I’ve found myself standing here wondering how you’ve become someone I no longer recognize, how you’ve embraced the embodiment of the ugliness you warned me to avoid, how you stopped taking your own advice somewhere along the way.
You say that you only support the party or the policies and not the man — but I remember you telling me that we are known by the company we keep, that the ends doesn’t justify the means, and that we can’t gain the world (or a Supreme Court seat) and lose our souls. You wouldn’t have tolerated those flimsy excuses for aligning with someone horrible and I won’t tolerate them from you now.
As a child, I looked up to you, and that part of me will continue to love you dearly and be grateful for you. But as an adult, I see you face to face and I grieve the loss of the person I imagined you were when you were teaching me how to be a good person.
By continuing to support this man you have gone against everything you told me was important growing up: decency, honesty, fairness, maturity, empathy.
Either you were lying then or you’re wrong now. Which one is it? The child I was and the adult I’ve become, both want to know.
The original version of this Op Ed was published on johnpavlovitz.com
John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.