The Value of GodparentsBy
Do you have a godparent? Are you a godparent? What does the term mean to you?
Godparenting is something I associate with the Catholic Church, and because I grew up as a Protestant, I didn’t know anything about the role.
But Robert A. Johnson, a famous Jungian analyst whose memoir, Balancing Heaven and Earth, I am reading, just awakened me to what godparenting can be. And it’s quite wonderful!
He calls godparenting a profound art. “A godparent is designated as the teacher of the inner world for a young person while his or her natural parents are the caretakers of the physical and practical aspects of life.”
A godparent is a mentor and guide for a child, one who appreciates the child’s inner worlds, emotional and spiritual. Johnson said he had three godparents in his youth, and they virtually saved his life, as his childhood was very difficult.
So what might be characteristics of sensitive godparents? Surely they would be patient, very patient, and kind to a child. They would listen deeply, encouraging the child to reveal thoughts, explorations, ideas, and feelings. Godparents would hear longings, and find ways to address them, if only by naming and acknowledging them. Godparents might teach skills or the appreciation of music, the arts, history, and more. Godparents would notice the natural abilities and interests of a child and encourage them. Godparents might teach children how to untangle fear and anger, and use those emotional experiences as information and stepping-stones to freedom and acceptance.
I imagine good godparents might store up stories about a child, noticing growth and changes, and reflect these to the child occasionally. A good godparent might provide a place of refuge in the storms of adolescence. And a good godparent might follow a child well into adult life, always providing the sense: You are special to me. You are on-course, you are learning what you need to learn, you are safe.
Gee, I’d like a godparent even now!
Yes, this is a role our culture could well revive. Contemporary children and families would be greatly supported by having true godparents around. I wonder whether there are godparenting classes available anywhere. Hmm.