Vital Habit #4

Family and Friends

Family systems can either provide us with great strength or drain our strength.  It isnít easy to develop a healthy, functional family; it requires a great deal of work and constant upkeep.  The results, however, are well worth it.  A strong family can shelter you from harm, help you recover from almost any set back and provide you with enormous strength.  A dysfunctional family can drain your energy and leave you with long lasting wounds that may never heal.

Due to the enormous power families have over the lives of individuals it is no wonder that all major religions have strong moral teachings regarding family relationships.  In particular, marriage, which is the one family relationship in which we have a degree of choice, should not be entered into, nor departed from impulsively.  If you marry someone with a substance abuse problem, a tendency for dishonesty, a penchant for violence, etc., you are not only risking your own future well being, you may be risking the lives of your future children as well and perhaps even risking the lives that your future children may effect later.  Needless to say, merely sleeping with another person, even if you are not married carries all these same risks as well as many others.

Due to the temporary blindness that occurs when we fall in love, it is imperative that we develop strong self-control and learn to be patient before taking the huge risks that come with both sex and marriage.  There are very few things which can have a more dramatic effect in protecting your own future and the future of your children than self-control in these areas.

Once you have children, it is only wise to take the responsibilities of parenthood seriously.  Like most other things in life, if you pay up front itís much cheaper than trying to pay off your debts later.  The time you save by neglecting your children when they are young you will pay back with interest when they become teenagers.  The visits with teachers, law enforcement officials, therapists, etc. are both time consuming and painful and many children go on to be a burden to their parents for the rest of their lives.  On the positive side, nothing brings more pride or fulfillment to a parent than a successful child who lives with honor.

While most parents view intelligence and the ability to make money as the most important gifts to children, the greatest gift to a child is to teach them the right values.  This is only common sense when you think about it.  When a child has no moral values, intelligence is not a value but a curseÖ (think Hitler).  When a child can raise great sums of money but does it through dishonesty, this is not a good thingÖ(think Al Capone).  Honesty, sensitivity, respect and balanced love create strong, healthy families.

Parents can provide stability, security and warmth for children. They can make their childhood wonderful and the gifts they impart will last their entire lives and effect them every day.  But it is important to note that children return these same gifts to their parents in a stable family.  Family systems are worth investing whatever time you can into them.

Likewise a network of friends can provide us with tremendous strength.  It is much easier to accomplish anything when you know you have a group of supporters behind you.  It is much easier to choose our friends than our family.  Choose well.  It is wise to be a friend to everyone, but a close friend to few.  It is more wise to surround ourselves with friends that have positive values which will lift us up than negative values which may pull us down.  Ideally, spending a Sabbath day at a church with other believers and family should provide strength in many ways.  Small group meetings, are also important to build spiritual strength.  There is a synergy here that can not be found in larger groups.

It is important to note here, that the power which exists in small groups and families can be negative as well as positive.  People in an angry mob will go to extremes that they would never go to individually.  Some small groups and some families are dysfunctional.  Instead of helping to heal each other they work to maintain their afflictions.

Beware of groups which glorify their weaknesses and stoke each otherís anger so that they feel better but never heal.  Groups can empower their members to remain dysfunctional.  Avoid groups which do not foster healing, growth and strength. Healthy groups should help each other find healing, not justification for continuing failure.  Healthy groups are sensitive to past victimization, but, encourage people to move away from a victim mentality.  When people continue to think of themselves as victims they continue to be victimized.  People who have been victimized in the past need to work towards healing so they wonít continue to be victimized.  While we need to get the pain of our past out of our system and this may take time, we need to be careful not to wallow in self pity permanently.  Pain is something that we must face, learn from and walk through, but then we must leave it behind us.  Healthy groups encourage people to take charge of their own lives and allow God to move them into a positive future.

Vital Habit #6 - Emotional Control

Vital Habits Index

Learning Exercises