The Journey series
This week’s Mustard Seed examines Family. Just as atoms are the building blocks of matter, families are the basic units of society.
People are not just individuals; they’re a hereditary blend of their ancestors. The modern notion of autonomy is seriously flawed by ignoring we are born into family, community, and environment. Yes, we have free will, but it is immature to hold that we may exercise that will free of obligations and limits.
We did not create our selves. We must learn to live with the body, mind, heart, and soul we were given. For the most part we are average, but we each have strengths and weaknesses; interests and dislikes. We flourish when we pursue our strengths and interests. We allow others to flourish when we appreciate them for their strengths and interest. We do not fare well when we focus on our weaknesses. Others do not fare well when we chide and berate them for their weaknesses. We are made to complement each other. We do what we excel at and leave to others what they excel at. Equality is not homogeny.
Being social in nature does not mean we merely like being in the company of others; we depend on them. No one can put themselves in their mother’s womb. No one can nourish or nurture themselves for several years after birth. Most of what we learn is taught us by others. Even when we avoid restaurants none of us feed ourselves; we depend on farmers, ranchers, hunters, fishermen, grocers, truckers, and a host of others. We use pots and pans, appliances, tables, and dishes made by others. We are similarly dependent for clothing and shelter. Without excessive cunning or a bigger stick we can only claim ownership of anything through mutual consent. Our life is governed by the explicit and implicit rules of our community.
We are first introduced to community in our family. Our parents bring us into the world and guide us through our early years until we are able to function in society by ourselves. We learn cooperation, patience, compromise and forgiveness. Our parents enroll us in activities, support us as we learn new skills, observe our interests and abilities, and encourage us to pursue worthy goals. Parents act from pure beneficence.
Passing social skills on to the children is challenged when families are disrupted. When problems arise through accident or illness the broader community steps up to help. When fault lies in the self-interest of one or both parents their poor example often perpetuates into the next generation. Parents pass on habits, good or bad, as surely as they pass on genes.
Next week: More on family.
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Peter T Elliott