There is an often-told story of two sons of an alcoholic father. One struggles through life as a drunk. The other becomes a successful businessman, family man, and respected community member. When asked, “Why are you the way you are?” Both responded, “My father was an alcoholic.”

Each of us has the power of choice. The Lord has blessed us with moral agency … the power to choose despite our situation, circumstances, gifts, talents, and weaknesses.

Many times in counseling, the approach is to understand the dynamics in the family of origin. One client asked, “Are you saying I have ‘daddy issues’?” The actual goal is not to place blame, but rather to determine the development of core beliefs, discover any episodes of traumatic events, and recognize the influences on mental and emotional development.

Too often people conclude: “What did you expect from me; just look at my parents.” But that is not a legitimate reason, it’s just an excuse. [Please refer again to the sons of the alcoholic father.]

Instead of attempting to place blame on the parents, what would it be like to be grateful for our parents? In the individual events of the Olympics, only one person will win a gold medal. Some will win silver or bronze. Some athletes just miss a medal by hundredths of a second. Some athletes don’t make it out of the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, CO, USA. Some never even played sports beyond grade school; some never played sports at all. That can be a metaphor for parents.

Instead of placing blame on parents, what if we could be thankful for what we learned from them? Even if some of the learning experiences were painful – mentally, emotionally, even physically? This does not mean we agree with or condone bad behavior. Even then, we learn what NOT to do! And we become more than survivors, but we thrive! Just like Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, even in the worst circumstances, the Lord can give us peace and give us experience and be for our good: “My son [daughter], peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high … “ (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8). “ “… and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (D&C 122:7).

In defense of parents, there are times when our perspective may be distorted and inaccurate.

In his October 2023 General Conference talk, Sir, We Would Like to See Jesus, Elder Robert M. Daines of the Seventy talked about face blindness. He told the story of a soldier who was shot in the head and could no longer recognize family or friends or even recognize himself in the mirror. Then Elder Daines shared a second story:

As a young boy, I often saw my mom as the rule maker. She decided when I could play and when I had to go to bed or, worse, pull weeds in the yard.

She obviously loved me. But too often and to my shame, I saw her only as “She Who Must Be Obeyed.”

Only years later did I come to see her as a real person. I am embarrassed that I never really noticed her sacrifice or wondered why for years she only ever wore the same two old skirts (while I got new school clothes) or why, at the end of the day, she was so tired and eager for me to go to bed early.

Do we see our parents for who they really are? How much do we appreciate their teachings, examples, and influence on us? How can that change our perspective as their children and as parents ourselves?

The scriptures provide numerous examples of parent-child relationships that illustrate a range of success and failure in raising children. They also illustrate the power to choose that we each have to grow and progress during our mortal probation. Look at the different outcomes of Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi, all children of Lehi and Sariah. Look at wicked King Noah and his righteous son, Limhi. Look at Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the different paths of their children. Do we recognize, learn from, and appreciate our earthly parents? And do we especially appreciate our Gold Medal Heavenly Parents!

May the Lord bless us to really see and appreciate others even as we strive to do better and be better as we go for the Gold!