Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. --Psalm 86:11

Monday, April 23, 2012

Six Myths Our Culture Tells Us about Family

Me and my girls - the real deal, not a myth!
Two years ago as I was talking through marriage and family issues with my ethics students, I did some reflecting on what I think are some of the most damaging lies we’re told by the world about marriage and family life. Those reflections produced this document that I’ve had a chance to revisit this week as I cover the topic again with a new class. This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but these myths seem to me especially pervasive and powerful in contemporary culture.

Myth 1: To be a good parent, you must provide your children with abundant goods and opportunities.

Reality: More than anything, people want and need other people. Your kids will want more than stuff, they‘ll want you. They want you more than any thing. If you teach them how, they will learn to be content without stuff, with less stuff, or with old stuff. They will suffer without you.

Myth 2: “Quality time” is as good as quantity time.

Reality: “Quality time” is virtually impossible without quantity time, because time creates the relationship that allows “quality time” to happen. Be with your kids; know them; enjoy them.

Myth 3: Children are an inconvenience.

Reality: Children are an incredible responsibility requiring an enormous investment of time, energy and resources, but there is nothing more precious and worthy of such an investment. Children bring a joy to life that nothing else can. Nothing is more beautiful than seeing your newborn child, watching them develop, being greeted by their smile and hugs, and having them say they love you. The effort required is eclipsed by the blessing received.

Myth 4: Children will be okay when their parents’ relationship suffers or ends.

Reality: Selfishness hurts others. Divorce, most often, is an act of selfishness. Yes, sometimes it’s better than the alternative, but I believe this is rare. Divorce undermines a child’s security and alters the two most significant relationships any child has. Yes, many times, by God’s grace, these children turn out “okay,” or even victoriously well, but the road to get there is full of confusion and pain. Kids know that something is not “right.” They have questions. It may be years before they understand why their parents decided they could no longer love and forgive each other.

Myth 5: Marriage is supposed to make me happy.

Reality: In a sense this is true, but only when we realize that real happiness comes from giving yourself to another, being committed and faithful, loving unconditionally and sacrificially, and pouring yourself out for the good of another. That kind of marriage can and does make us happy, but even then that isn’t the only purpose; marriage is meant to make us happy and holy.

Myth 6: My family relationships are for my benefit.

Reality: Yes, but the “benefit” is bigger than we may imagine. The point of human relationships, in submission to God, is to make us more like him (holy). Through relationships, we grow in the likeness of Christ; relationships become an arena for divine revelation and for our transformation. This is true in the family more than anywhere. Good parents reveal God’s grace, care, patience, protection, provision and so on. Children learn how to respect, obey, be responsible, live disciplined lives and revel in their parents’ love. All family relationships allow us to show the love, forgiveness, mercy, and joy that originate and fully exist only in God himself. Any goodness we show to others derives from and points back to him.

I’d love your interaction on these issues. Do you have different insight from a different perspective? What other myths about family would you add to or subtract from the six I have here?

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