Love Dilemma One: Generosity or Parsimony?

The problem with caring is that behavior matters. Ask any parent. Or, teacher.

A teenage son wrecks his car. No one is injured, but the car is totaled. He now has no car. His car insurance will go up. He has no job. Money is a concern in the household. As a parent, what would you do? What should you do?

Is there a rule book for parenting?

Let’s assume that you are a parent that really loves your teenage son. You want what is best for him and you want to see him happy. So, are you thinking long-term or short-term here? Is a life lesson with payoff years down the road worth a few weeks or months of misery, now?

Perhaps the generous thing is to buy your son another car—not necessarily a great car, just a car. License it, insure it, and present it with no strings attached.

No strings?

Is such generosity a true act of love? Or, is parsimony more responsible.

So, here is the thing. That accident means insurance goes up, way up. If the teenage son has a cheap car, insurance on that car can replace more expensive insurance on other household vehicles.

Is the decision still about the teenage son? What is best for him? Or, did it just become what is best for you, the parent? And, if so, is that bad parenting, meaning that you don’t really love your son?

Can a parent be too generous? I am asking if it is possible for a parent to give too much to a son or daughter, so much that it actually makes happiness more difficult for her/him in the future. Perhaps, parsimony is a more loving practice for parents, to mete out resources with a stingy hand.

We could explore the same dilemma between spouses, I am sure: whether ‘tis more loving to be generous with one’s husband or wife rather than frugal. I wonder if intent really matters—you know, the thought that counts. I guess I am just postulating in print what love might actually look like in human behavioral matters of the material.

Is it more loving to give a student an A than a B? Given that high school teachers now have one or two hundred students at any time, and assign many grades or scores to each student during a semester, and these grades become permanent records that affect students’ graduation, acceptance to college or military, scholarships, and even future employment, is the loving thing to do to give higher grades?

I’m sorry if these are easy questions for you. I am sorry because they are not easy for me. If you have the answers, I would like to know the reasons and rules. Because, I think love is hard, parenting is hard, marriage is hard, teaching is hard. Living a life grounded in love means living, always, on the razor’s edge of dilemma.

Maybe that is love, choosing to live on the razors edge, willing to make mistakes and bleed, and going back tomorrow for another chance. And, maybe that is the hard part of life for a survivor of traumatic stress, the vulnerability of love’s razor.

4 responses to “Love Dilemma One: Generosity or Parsimony?

  1. I grew up with tough love and few “gifts”. I didn’t have a car until I graduated from college (which I also paid for myself, the car and the education). My parents helped with loans, sometimes groceries, or a new pair of shoes, but I didn’t receive free money. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I always knew (and still know) that I was loved. I know the value of things, and the value of hard work and earned respect. I am very thankful that my parents (just celebrated their 50th anniversary) didn’t dole out money or privileges without work, chores, and expectations. Now I work with many 20 somethings and I sometimes gasp at their lack of respect for others, their belongings, community, and the planet as a whole.

  2. Being single with no children doesn’t make me a good choice for opinions on this, but it made me think. I believe that generosity and responsibilty go hand in hand. The one offering the generosity must be as responsible as the one who excepts it. I believe that if all problems, whether it be child/parent, husband/wife or employer/employee, were figured out together and not in an authoritarian manner, short and long term happiness can be obtained. People working together for the better of the whole, with both sides knowing the reasons why as they solve the problem at hand, in my eyes, can only produce positive outcomes.

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