PETERSON: The Great Sacrifice: Abraham And Isaac

The following is a transcript excerpt from Dr. Jordan Peterson’s Biblical Series exploring the psychological significance of the biblical stories in the book of Genesis. You can now listen to or watch the lecture series on DailyWire+.

“And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship and come to you again. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it upon Isaac, his son; and he took the fire in his hand and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold, the fire in the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”

When I was answering the questions last night at this Q and A, a guy asked me this question. He said that he had parents who were desperate, antisocial, alcoholic, addicted, friendless, and they didn’t want him to leave their home. He was the only relationship they had, and he asked what he should do. I told him that he should leave. The reason for that is that you have a moral obligation as a parent to encourage your child to go out into the world and to be whoever they can be — to be the best they can possibly be. In doing that, you’re encouraging them to pursue the good. You’re sacrificing them to the good; you’re not keeping them for yourself, selfishly. You’re telling them that they can go out and live their life and live it properly, and that’s the parallel to the idea of the sacrifice of Isaac as far as I can tell. You don’t want for your son what it is that you want for him. You want for your son what would be best for him and for the world. And you let go in precise proportion to your desire to have that happen.

The great psychoanalyst — I think this is actually Freud’s dictum, but I’m not certain of that — said the good mother fails, which is a brilliant observation because when you have an infant, you do everything for the infant because the infant can do nothing for him or herself. But as the infant matures and is increasingly capable of doing things for him or herself, then you pull back. You pull back, and every time the child develops the ability to do something, you allow them or encourage them to do it. And you don’t interfere. So if your child is struggling getting dressed, obviously there’s sometimes you help them, but mostly, you let them learn so that they can know how to do it in the future. That’s better for you, and it’s certainly better for them.

If you’re working with the elderly in an old age home, there’s a rule that’s something like, don’t do anything for any of the guests; they can do for themselves because you compromise their independence. So as a mother, you pull back and you pull back and you let your child hit him or herself against the world. And you fail to protect them. But by failing to protect them, you encourage and ennoble them to the point where you’re no longer necessary. Now they may still want to see you, and it would be wonderful if that was the case. But the point is, you’re supposed to remove yourself from the equation by encouraging your child to be the best possible person that person can be. And you sacrifice your desires, all of your desires, your personal desires, even your desires for your child in relationship to you because you want them to move forward into the world as a light — as a light on a hill. That’s what you want if you have any sense.

So you don’t get to keep your children at home because you need them. Now,

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