A Catholic Monthly Magazine


by Bill Lambert

by Bill Lambert

At the age of five I was rather worried that I might end up in hell.   I was already convinced that I was a worthless sinner.

Born in 1930 and at convent school four and a half years later, I became just another product of the Catholic teaching by the sisters.  We were not taught so much as ‘programmed’.   The virtue of humility demanded that we held ourselves to be worthless in the sight of God.  We were naturally hapless sinners. That programming has blighted my life for the last 75 years.

The good sisters meant well of course, but the severe disciplines they imposed on themselves in those days tended to influence their way of thinking.

Vatican II taught us to love God, love our neighbour and to love ourselves.

In these more enlightened years following Vatican II we are taught to love God, love our neighbour and to love ourselves.  The first two I find rewardingly easy, but I’m still battling  low self-esteem.

I’m frightened of liking myself too much lest pride take charge.  I tend to concentrate too much on my faults.  I just thank God for the talents he has given me, and try to use them in his service.

I remembered and treasured the two single occasions my father gave me words of praise.

It wasn’t just the good sisters; it was the attitude of the times.  Parents did not praise their children.  We might get above ourselves… become too cocky.  The parental authority might be undermined.  In our family we were taught to call our mother – ‘Mother’, not ‘mum’.   “Familiarity breeds contempt.”  She would say.

I remembered and treasured the two single occasions my father gave me words of praise.  He was a good and loving father,  but a product of his generation.

I was thinking a while  back about my own grown-up four sons….  Had I left them with the impression that I didn’t think much of them?   Had I given them a negative opinion of themselves?

I decided to write each of them a letter, congratulating them on their individual  successes in life,  and letting them know I was proud of them.  I took care with each one, singling out his particular accomplishments and not forgetting the problems he had faced and overcome  in life. Better late than never.

Could I suggest that you fathers - and mothers too - who read this will sit down and write that kind of letter to your children.  It could make a big difference in their lives, and you can be sure it will be treasured.

Bill Lambert is a former journalist, and Member of Parliament, and a member of St Patrick’s parish, Kapiti, NZ

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