Happy Fourth of July! Today we celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, a step toward a free and independent United States. What does family have to do with the Fourth of July? For one thing, we celebrate the Fourth of July with our families. Secondly, and perhaps of greater importance, family lays the foundation, creates the stability, and perpetuates the freedom and independence of our country…in any country really. People have known this truth in our country since the signing of the Declaration of Independence and represent such diverse times as…
…Elias Boudinot (a President of the Continental Congress) who noted that “Good government generally begins in the family, and if the moral character of a people once degenerate, their political character must soon follow”
… to EH Chapin (a preacher alive from 1814-1880) who realized “break up the institution of family, deny the inviolability of its relations, and in a little while there would not be any humanity”
…to Charles Franklin Thwing (a clergyman and president of Adelbert College and Western Reserve University alive between 1853-1937) who proclaimed that “Under any system of society…the family holds the future in its bosom”
… to Pope John Paul II who, in 1986, stated that “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live”
…to Barbara Bush (First Lady of the United States from 1989-1993) who said, “Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens at the White House, but what happens inside your house.”
Even those who held less esteemed views of the family knew that family undergirds any society. Lenin (living from 1870-1924) is known to have said, “Destroy the family, you destroy the country.”
Why do such diverse people note the importance of family to our society and our country? Because…
Family provides the training ground for moral character. Successful families honor moral character above personal comfort and material possession. Parents model moral character for their children. All family members encourage one another to stand for what is right. Families teach us to act in kindness and fairness, and to make personal sacrifice for the welfare of one another. It is in families that we learn moral behavior contributes to a happy, successful life.
Family teaches us of loyalty and faithfulness. Family members teach the importance of faithfulness when they keep promises made to one another. They show the importance of loyalty as they support one another in the face of difficulties, protect one another in spite of personal danger, and encourage one another in the face of disappointments. They show tolerance and work cooperatively to strengthen the family even in the midst of disagreements. Families elicit and teach that loyalty brings stability. They show that peace and trust extend from faithfulness.
Family models that freedom is not unrestrained but accompanied by personal responsibility. The price of freedom is costly. Parents have the personal responsibility to work so they can support their family and maintain a home. Children learn the personal responsibility to complete chores, doing their part to maintain the household. When everyone in the family does their part in keeping the household running smoothly, the family is free to engage in fun activities and experience times of relaxation. However, if even one member of the family does not “pull their weight,” opportunities diminish and the whole family becomes overwhelmed with stress. The family teaches that “doing my own thing” results in others being hurt and the family unit becoming strained. Discipline soon follows such situations. So, family members learn that freedom is not unrestrained, but contingent on personal responsibility.
Family also becomes the training ground for compassion toward others. Not only does family teach personal responsibility, but they teach us compassion for those in need. Successful families treat each family member with kindness and grace, coming to one another’s aid when a need arises. They reach out, as a family, to those in need and experience the joy of helping others. When one family member mourns, the whole family mourns with him. When one family member rejoices, the whole family rejoices. In compassion, each member of the family reaches out to encourage and lift up those family members struggling with any hardship or difficulty.
Overall, families are the backbone of a free and independent society. Without healthy families, society will lose its most important teacher and training ground…the foundation of freedom will crumble. Without strong families, our individuals will become more self-absorbed, self-centered, and self-serving. The accurate perception of responsibility, loyalty, faithfulness, moral character, and compassion will be lost. So, celebrate our independence with your family. Teach your children patriotism and loyalty. After all, the strength of our country and the perpetuation of our freedom and independence rest on the shoulders of strong families.