By Charles R. Swindoll
This article is courtesy of ParentLife.
What is a family? I decided to do what you often do when you want to find the meaning of a word. I checked the dictionary and, admittedly, I was disappointed. Webster defines family as, “a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head; a group of persons of common ancestry.”1 This definition was not much help. To be more thorough, I dusted off my giant, exhaustive Oxford English Dictionary, found the entry for family, pulled out my magnifying glass, and read, “The body of persons who live in one house or under one head, including parents, children, servants, etc.”2 OK, that was not my childhood home! As I recall, I was the servant! Maybe that fits Oxford, but it does not describe most of us. Let’s begin to unravel this little mystery. See what you think of my working definition.
Defining FamilyThe family is where you put down your first roots, where you form your most lasting impressions, where you put together the building blocks of your character, and where you determine whether you will view life through the eyes of prejudice or acceptance. Family is where you learn to laugh and where you are allowed to weep without losing respect. Family is where you learn how to share, how to relate, and how to treat other people. Family is where you learn how to interpret your surroundings correctly. It is where you discover how to draw the line between right and wrong, between good and evil. Dysfunctional families blur that line, and boundaries become unclear. Solid, secure families have a clear view of the difference so that its members have little ethical confusion. Moral dilemmas will challenge you, but if you come from a healthy family, you are seldom unclear about what is right or wrong.
Eight CharacteristicsHaving studied the work of a number of respected sources, I put together a list of eight characteristics that describe a healthy family. This is a composite of characteristics that consistently appear on the lists of those who have spent half of their lives working in the trenches with families — counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, researchers, and authors. This certainly is not an exhaustive list, but it includes the most significant traits of a healthy household common to the cross section of experts I studied.
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Until next time...share the journey and enjoy the ride!