Family Values is a cliched term, especially in the US where it has become a weapon to divide people along party lines, when in fact liberals and conservatives probably love family as does every human being on the planet; liberals might have bent some rules but not abandoned the core unit of family. What does it mean and why is it important? This is something I ponder a lot, as our family has grown and our children have their own families.
When one is younger, we are focused on individual development and achievement. For example, my 14 year old grandson now is entering high school, and shaping his identity as he prepares for college and life beyond. So for him, his individual self is the focus and it should be so. And yet he knows the value of family thanks to his upbringing. He and his siblings and cousins will gladly give their time to be with family and show respect and love. Family continues to build their emotional, physical and spiritual foundation even if they do not appreciate it until much later in life!
In essence, family is a web of love as well as a system of responsibilities and rights that ground and strengthen the relationships between husband and wife, parents and children and beyond to extended family, such as grandparents and uncles/aunts. In any case, as we move from individual selves to couples to families and then extended families, our values get deeper and are more important. We have to continue to nurture them like a garden so the relationships thrive and are loving and meaningful and most importantly respectful.
In a way, family values are a reminder system for human values, the basic bedrock of society. Just as a family reminds us to practice those values, so does a family spread those values in the community and to society as a whole. We shift the focus from our individual selves — my wants, my comforts, my happiness — to what works for all our loved ones. We realize that we have obligations and duties and there is a pleasure and intrinsic reward in those responsibilities. We partner and collaborate so the needs and wants of all are cared for, and we temper or change our individual desires if they break the whole. After all, is individuality so sacred that it should break all ties and traditions?
Wholeness brings to mind the forest, as I forest bathe a lot (as in shinrin-yoku- the Japanese practice of forest bathing). In the forest, the trees might stand side by side, but underneath the earth there is an extensive system of roots that links them all- they are there for each other and help each other out in distress and times of need. It is truly a “Web of Life” that nurtures and supports the whole, and wholeness is what brings joy and unity to families and society.