Family, a model worth striving for?

Family was yesterday. Today, everything is more modern. Really? Where does family begin, where does it end? Is it precious or maybe obstructive? What good is a family? There are many answers to such questions. Here is a look at the family on International Day of Families.

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 15 May as International Day of Families. Some say that the observance of this commemorative day is nonsense, others are glad to be reminded of it. Traditionalists conceive of the family as a group of people living together in a household, united by a close bond. For them family is the nest, the starting-point where children learn important social skills. Within the family, the values and norms of a society are passed on to the next generation.

This image of the classical family is still very widespread today.

In the meantime, many nuances and different family structures have emerged. What exactly is family today? This is what people want to know. Over the course of the centuries, the size and structure of the family has changed. In the past, there were extended families, consisting of several generations, who all lived under one roof. In ancient Rome, even the servants and slaves were considered part of the family. Today the blended family has become the frequently desired and often consciously sought-after lifestyle choice of people who feel a bond between them. It is no longer only married, heterosexual couples with natural and legitimate children who are considered a family, but also single mothers and fathers or homosexual couples. The concept of family has become dynamic.

Family as an immutable value

In addition to these kinds of social issues, it is above all content that has become important. In times of divergence and a lack of attention for children and young people, the principle of being part of a firmly established fixture has become especially important. Family may not be a universal remedy, but it can help to overcome the worst of loneliness, of always being misunderstood, of feeling excluded and worthless—if it works.

How then can a family—regardless of its composition—function and succeed? This is an interesting question with equally interesting answers.

  • Tolerance is essential! Generous and broadminded thinking, being kindly disposed to the differing opinions of others, and looking for solutions together have never done any harm. Sometimes the journey is the reward.
  • Understanding others is a skill that can be learned! This is not something that will fall from the sky. It requires humility towards one’s neighbour and nobleness of heart. That is why family policy is a question of education: only those who have learned to look beyond the horizon will see what has not yet been discovered.
  • Agreements are important and should be respected. You can get used to rules. Motorists know all about this. Despite prudence and conscientiousness, traffic rules are essential. It is the same in a family. There are rights as well as obligations.
  • For the mutual benefit of all! Many people have completely forgotten this. We are not alone on this planet. Communities and relationships without commonality is difficult to imagine. “Do as you would be done by”, based on Tobit 4: 15, is the far more beneficial principle and a lot better than the law of retaliation—“an eye for an eye”.

“Treat others as you would like them to treat you.” Jesus Himself said, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Luke 6: 31).

Is the family outdated and unrealistic? Or is it still a model worth striving for? In any case, it is a good day to think about it.

Photo: digitalskillet1 -

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Peter Johanning
Congregational life