UNITED STATES—The week of savage Black Friday crowds we would do well to consider loving neglect, the counterpart of radical love, discussed last week. Accepting this concept when dealing with others may add a degree of peace to the season some call the most harried time of the year.
Loving neglect is where a laissez-faire environment is created for the subject. Essentially a pet, a loved one, young or ancient is left to fend for themselves.
The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard was an exponent of loving neglect. Kierkegaard held that the most loving attitude the parental figure could assume in regard to training their child for life in this volatile earthly sphere is “to leave them alone.” Rather than hold their hand, leave their hand empty and step 10 paces back so they may develop on their own. When one knows a mishap is about befall the child, the glass is about to slip and spill on their lap, retreat, be quiet and ever so watchful, leaving the child to learn, suffer and deal with the consequences of physics. Thus the lessons of coordination and knowledge for dealing with the world are fully developed.
Kierkegaard held that troubles are most beneficial when fully endured, meanwhile those troubles that have been eliminated for us by providence or adults are troublesome indeed. That urge to eliminate difficulties for the being or person learning is tantamount to a robbery from the ability to suffer and learn. Peril is a great teacher, and the greatest teacher will know to prolong to fullest affect the duel between learner and peril to develop “portents of independence.”
There is a store of empathy behind the apparent neglect. Watchfulness is the difference, a lurking, stealthy loving that informs this deliberate neglect. The risk of this, as Kierkegaard failed to point out, because he lived in a time less prone to judgmental outbursts and prejudices about “being responsible” was that one may be upbraided for neglecting their child, dog or grandparent. The door is open to being the recipient of nasty looks of accusations of being a bad person (i.e. self absorbed and selfish) and one must learn to brush off such charges, or fears of such charges, and let children stumble when they may and “do it wrong.”
Kierkegaard wrote, “The art is to leave the child to itself in the greatest possible measure and in the greatest possible scales, and to express this apparent abandonment in such a way that, unobserved, one knows everything.”
That thing which urges one to speak up before letting a task be fully attempted, perhaps mistakenly, by another is the enemy of self-sufficiency. One must step back with a good measure of loving neglect before stepping back in. Words as a means to teach have been greatly overrated. One is sparingly talked into knowing how to do something; doing it is the stairway to mastery, making mistakes and leaving one free to make them. And the greater strides on their upward path are often made during long stretches of loving neglect.
There was the case of an experiment in India where a researcher put a computer in a hole in a side of a wall near where village children played. They approached it reluctantly and then started pushing buttons, randomly. After just two weeks of seeing what they could do, they had it all figured out.
The Wizard of Fiction, Grady Miller, is the author of “A Very Grady Christmas: 3 L.A. Christmases” https://amzn.to/2r0aMu0