The focus of this second article of the series centered on the family and its indispensable place in all human societies is on those significant elements of a healthy family life. There are several of these elements. However, for this series we will pay attention to four. They are: (1) love and commitment, (2), frankness and openness (3) patience and forgiveness, and (4) understanding and communication. What are these and why are they essential to a healthy family life?
The introductory article observed the following points:
What then is the family and its purpose? Any group of persons related to each may be called a family; a group of people of common ancestry or all persons living under one head or a household. A group that has common convictions, beliefs and practices can be said to be a family like the Church family or the Old Timers Association (a football team in Liberia) family. The nuclear family is small, consisting of the husband, wife and children. The extended family, widely found in Africa and a few other parts of the globe, consists of husband, wife, children, aunts, uncles, parents of both partners, and other relatives.
Whatever form it takes, the family in all societies is meant to be a haven away from the often harsh and hostile world. God established the family in creation for the greater good of each and every member of the family (Genesis 2:18). The family is supposed to teach one the basis of all human existence, love, and what it provides: protection, care, provision of basic needs, correction, training of how to live in peace with self and others, and one’s responsibility to the family and the wider society.
The family is the ideal condition and environment for the raising up of children. Husband and wife are to rule with fairness to all and lead by positive examples of setting and demonstrating the principles of honesty, hard work, service for the good of self, family and others, and instilling cardinal virtues such as acknowledging God as the Creator and thus Source of one’s being and all that one has – “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it; the world and those who live therein” (Psalm 24:1) – trust and trustworthiness, and commitment and faithfulness to what is required.
The basic essential elements of the family life are love, openness, patience, and understanding. Love tops the list because it is the greatest and best of all virtues (1 Corinthians 13). Agape the God-like form of is essentially a quality that says no matter what anyone does to me I will never set out to revenge but will always seek the good of others. Love is commitment to the good of the whole family. It has emotional and passionate elements to it but essentially it is commitment to the beloved’s highest good and this can take the form of truth telling and promoting, helping the beloved grow in the best way possible, and sacrificing for the good of others. It is about each member of the family contributing to the greater good of the whole family.
Love is manifested in openness to the other. Husband, wife and other family members have to learn to be open about family and individual issues while keeping family matters private. Family openness must go hand in hand with confidentiality, which vows to protect the family and its members from intruders. Each member of the family should have no fear to share secrets, fears and aspirations with other members of the family and be confident of support.
Closely related to openness is the virtue of patience. The family cannot survive long in a healthy state without its members being patient with one another. Patience is the ability and willingness to wait for the appropriate time to react or respond to situations and people. It means often self-control in the face of provocation or when things do not go one’s way. It is required of any healthy relationship, especially of a family kind. The other side of patience is forgiveness which is to let of go of grudges against family members. The basis of forgiveness is that we all have faults and must learn to forgive and receive forgiveness from others.
And lastly, is the quality of understanding. Understanding comes when one seeks, more than in the literal sense, to see, feel and hear from the other person’s perspective. The vehicle of understanding is effective communication. Communication can be verbal or non verbal (with or without words). Signs and actions can communicate well too. Communication is achieved when quality time is spent together, other people’s feelings and opinions are respected and persuasion is used as desired change is intended as opposed to the use of force. Where the virtues of love, openness, patience and understanding are known and practiced in a family – the family and in the society in which it is found.