Educating in values: Coherence of life

To educate our children in values is to live in such a way that when they consider a virtue, they immediately think of us, their parents

August 1978. Madrid – Barajas Airport. Some parents accompanied their 16-year-old son to the plane (at that time, that was possible). He was going to study 3rd year of B.U.P. (today known as 1st year of Bachillerato in Spain / 2nd year of Preparatory in Mexico). It was not the first time he had left home, in fact, he had left home many years ago, he had been living in a boarding school since 7th grade of E.G.B., and that was the decision he made on his own after spending a summer there as a “good” student. In addition to the suitcase, the father gave his son a message:

“Never forget that you are Calderón, that you are Catholic, and that you are Spanish.”

I have always been impressed by how my father was able, with just three words, to transmit a whole way of life, a whole model, which undoubtedly reflected how my father lived every day. That sentence would have meant nothing without his daily example, but together with him, it made perfectly explicit everything he expected from each one of us.

Today I wonder if I would be able to convey to my children in one sentence, in just three words, the essence of how to live and how to be.

Today I would tell them: “Never stop serving, giving yourself, respecting yourself, and fighting to be free”.

Perhaps it is an excuse, but I believe that the heterogeneity that characterises today’s society makes it very difficult to explain to my children what I aspire to every day in just three or four words. I cannot limit myself to three words. The four ideas I would like to convey to my children are:

  • Live a life of service. Never stop serving. To everyone. First of all to God, and to serve Him especially your spouse and your children (if you ever have them), but also serve everyone who comes close to you (even if they live thousands of miles away).
  • Live in a surrendered way. Never stop giving yourself. To everyone. First of all to God, and to give yourself to Him, give yourself totally to your spouse and your children (if you ever have them), but give yourself also to everyone else. And give yourself in everything you do, in your work, in your family, in your entertainment, in your daily life. Even when you sleep, you should try to give yourself!

In order not to leave any loose ends, I will say that although giving oneself and serving might be considered by some people as synonyms, I believe that we cannot always serve, but we can give ourselves. There are times when that is our best and perhaps our only service. To give ourselves so that others may serve. There may even come a time when our giving is not voluntary, but we can still be the vehicle that will enable others to do their servant work.

  • Live with respect. First of all, to yourself. Always strive to act according to your beliefs and values. If you don’t, it will not only be difficult for you to respect yourself, it will be difficult for others to respect you.

And don’t ever think, “Do you know who you are talking to?” That can only be thought by those who believe that some people are more worthy than others. If you think you are more worthy than anyone else, you will have to admit that some might be more worthy than you. We are all equally worthy. ALL OF US. We are all children of God. We are all children of Mary. There is no greater dignity possible.

  • Live always fighting for your freedom. Never forget freedom! That means that you must keep up a constant struggle against everything that limits it. Sometimes you will have desires that will be your greatest enemy. Many times you will desire that which would enslave you. Remember that only the one that can say NO can maintain his freedom.

Reject single thinking, that which is called “political correctness”, one of the most widespread forms of slavery today. This expression hides the imposition of lies on society. Always be critical, first of all of yourself, of your actions and your omissions, and then of others, but always try to be as lenient with others as you must be with yourself.

But always remember that freedom is the obverse of responsibility. If you do not assume your responsibilities, if you run away from them, never aspire to be free.

Considering the four ideas I would like my children to live by – service, dedication, respect, and freedom – I became fully aware that these were four of my father’s essential characteristics. It is what characterised the Calderóns (at least those of my father’s generation).

But curiously enough, service, dedication, respect, and freedom are also words that also characterise what my father knew it meant to be Catholic and to be Spanish. That is what my father truly taught us – coherence of life. He was always helpful, he always gave of himself – until the last moment -, he always had great respect for himself and for others, and he always fought for freedom, because for him, it was all the same: he was Calderón, he was Catholic and he was Spanish.

Educating our children in values is, in essence, to live in such a way that when they consider a virtue, they immediately think of us, their parents, for having been the models who taught it to them, because they saw us live it every day. The rest, the talks, the discussions, the rewards and punishments, will have a rather limited weight, most of the time insignificant. What matters, what counts, is that they see how we live. We educate them with our lives.