My daughter stopped speaking to me when I told her that she needed to start dieting and exercising . I feel that I followed the rule of treating others as I would like others to treat me. I'm very hurt by her actions. I refuse to apologize. Am I wrong?
There is a concept of “Hocheiach Tocheach et Amisecha” which requires us to chastise others when they are doing something against Jewish law. The tradition, however, says that since know one knows how to chastise properly, and almost no one accepts chastisement, one should only do so when one is certain that the receiver will take to heart and fulfill the admonition of the chastiser. In broader ethical terms it means we should be careful whom we chastise, lest we do more harm than good. Since there is a further concern for respect of one’s parents whose transgression is a serious offence, Jewish law places great admonitions on parents not to do something that will cause our children to transgress that commandment. I think the assumption is that since parents are older and have much more life experience, they are expected to act as models of tolerance and forgiveness for their children.
As a matter of fact, as a future sign that world redemption is near our prophets tell us that “the hearts of the parents will turn to their children” and only then “will the hearts of the children turn to their parents.”
Finally, according to Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) when G-d was about to create the world, since he filled all existence and there was no room for anything else, He was Metzamtzem (contracted) into Himself to leave a tiny little hole for what we call the universe. This description of creation is of course a metaphor, not be taken literally, but it does teach us a lesson. I f we love something and want it to grow we need to hold back and give it room. This goes particularly for children and spouses.
Feelings are neither right nor wrong. They just are; and you feel hurt by your daughter. However, Jewish tradition would seem to say that as the parent you should copy our ultimate Parent, Hashem, be forgiving by apologizing (though you feel you were simply acting motherly) and reestablish the connection with your daughter. There will come a time when she will seek your advice, and it would be most beneficial to her and you, if she could feel the door is wide open, unblocked by criticism or judgement (however correct they may be).
The rule you are referring to was stated by Rabbi Hillel when he was asked to give the main lesson of the Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel stated: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow; that is the whole Law: all the rest is interpretation."
In my experience, most women feel hurt and insulted when someone tells them that they should lose weight. By telling your daughter that she should start dieting and exercising you have communicated to her that she does not look attractive and should lose weight. You may have felt that you were telling her this out of love and concern, but this was clearly not how she heard it. You may also feel that you would want someone to tell you if you started to put on some weight. But take a moment to reflect on a time when someone said something hurtful to you about your appearance… Your wearing that?....It’s so brave of you to let your hair go grey….You have such dark circles under your eyes. You should get some rest… such comments are always hurtful, even when they are not meant to be.
Truly, no one wants someone else to tell them that they should start dieting and exercising. Hiding behind the tradition by saying that you were only treating your daughter the way you would want to be treated is a misuse of the tradition and blatantly not true. If you would like to repair your relationship, you should apologize to your daughter and let her know how much you love her. Her weight is her business, not yours.
You are referencing Rabbi Hillel’s response, in that what is repugnant/painful to you, do not do to another. This can be expanded to include the manner in which the message is delivered, taking into consideration how the message is received. Body image is a major concern for the young. What you conceived as a loving and caring message of concern is obviously heard by your daughter as a personal attack and a not-so-subtle message of disappointment. This is not about you but about her. Your personalizing by being hurt does nothing for her self esteem. Apology is just for your benefit, not to ameliorate the situation. It does nothing for her other than cause greater distress. As parents, we should never insist our children apologize unless they truly feel an apology is valid. Shalom/peace requires both sides to talk and work out their individual feelings and concerns. Have you truly listened to your daughter or only evaluated her “condition”!
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