We all come from a family, even if it’s not biological or was state care.
We all have those individuals we grew up around who helped us survive and taught us what we know.
We may come from a seemingly perfect family that was actually f*cked up…
Or we may come from a family that seemed really f*cked up but was actually perfect in its own way, as actor Matthew McConaughey writes about in his 2020 autobiography Greenlights.
I believe that no matter how individualistic we are, family is still a concept and practical reality that provides grounding, meaning and structure to life.
This is a look at those who put family first and what motivates them…
1) They care about their roots
The first characteristic of folks who put family first is caring about their roots.
My extended relatives who are the most devoted family men and women are deeply interested in family history and appreciate where they came from.
My uncle did months of research putting together a detailed family tree that’s fascinating!
Those who care a lot about family appreciate the ground they were raised in and want to continue the legacy of those who came before.
2) They carry on traditions and festivals
Those who put their family above everything do their best to celebrate festivals and keep up traditions.
That may be religious festivals, cultural events or any other kind of local or national tradition that’s meaningful for the wider community.
By including the family in things that bind everyone together, the family man or woman makes sure that the kids have great memories and feel part of something even bigger than just their family.
They’re part of a place and a people.
3) They are encouraging and self-sacrificial
It’s hard to have a successful family without being encouraging.
In the positive sense, I see family as the ultimate team.
Your family are those who will love you unconditionally and cheer for you even when others turn away.
Those who put family first sacrifice their time, energy and money to make that team work.
They are encouraging and help each other when times are rough.
Love for their family comes first and is their lodestar that they return to.
4) They are empathetic and understanding
People who put family first are empathetic.
They try their best to understand others, including their spouse and kids.
They also make an effort with relatives, even relatives who may be difficult or with whom they may disagree on important issues.
None of us are ever going to see eye-to-eye on everything with our family, and sometimes even when you agree on almost everything, you still find somebody just plain annoying or aggravating for various everyday reasons!
That’s just family, and it takes empathy and patience to not let that cloud and ruin what can otherwise be fulfilling and positive relationships.
“To me, being family-oriented means prioritizing the values you want to see in your family,” writes well-being blogger Sophie Slosarczyk.
“Values such as love and empathy, connection, time together, warmth, openness, and vulnerability, amongst others.”
5) They prioritize loving their family
There is a lot of pressure to work, and not everybody has the privilege of remote work or being home a lot.
Some folks need to spend a significant amount of time away from their family for work, flying to different destinations, attending meetings and making deals.
But no matter how busy they are, family folks prioritize the love they give to their family and care deeply about being there for their loved ones whenever possible.
As blogger Mike Cernovich writes in his recent post “What It’s Like To Die:”
“No one is saying don’t work or don’t travel or don’t put those hours in.
“What we don’t want to lose sight of is that life is about the love we bring into this world. Everything else is a supporting role.”
As Cernovich said, when finding out he was about to die, what he thought wasn’t about himself, and it wasn’t even about his success in leaving his family money:
It was “will they be OK?” in every sense without him…
6) They pool their resources for the good of the family
Having a family and putting it first means going beyond me-first.
Whether or not somebody has kids, even a spouse entails working together on shared goals.
This may involve shared accounts and a not-always-evenly-split assumption of costs and responsibilities.
This is something that people who put family first accept and even like.
They embrace that responsibility and that pooling of resources because they decide that having a family is worth everything to them.
7) They shape the spiritual or religious foundations of the family
It’s popular these days to look at the faults and controlling aspects of religious families.
I frankly don’t buy into it very much.
The reason is because it doesn’t line up with my experiences or those of my friends.
The happiest and most productive families I know raised their children in a firm (but not oppressive) religious or spiritual tradition.
Some kids left in adolescence, some stayed.
But nobody I know was scarred or destroyed by being taught defined values and dogma at a young age, in fact those I know who have had the hardest time in life were raised without a firm ideology or religious/spiritual backing.
8) They help their kids have a good social lifes
When a family has kids, the parents want those kids to have a great life!
Granted, this isn’t always in their control.
But to the extent they can make a difference, the family first mom or dad wants to help their kid have friends.
This is part of why things like bullying hurt loving parents so much.
It’s imperative that their kids meet people they connect with and feel valued and loved in the way their own parents feel towards them.
“It is critical that we, as the leaders of our families, provide rich social opportunities for our kids to connect in more meaningful ways.
Now more than ever before, these experiences need to be carefully crafted and planned,” notes parenting expert Cathy Domoney.
Especially during the pandemic we saw how children became isolated and had a harder time maintaining friendships and making new friends.
This caused a lot of pain to parents who desperately want their kids to make those connections and get to play and interact with other kids.
9) They are patient in adversity and times of difficulty
Every individual goes through hard times when they wonder what the point of life is or experience career shocks and health scares.
A family is no different except that everything is magnified.
The person who puts family first cares most of all about taking care of those in his or her care and then thinking of themselves.
They practice patience when it seems like everything is going sideways and don’t give up easily.
They know that even when their own nerves are frayed and there seems to be no end in sight, other people they love are depending on them in important ways.
The nature of family is being questioned…
More and more individuals raised in the 1950s began to question and rebel against the idea of a nuclear family and whether it was really meaningful for them or had the authority to tell them what to do!
Was it just a representation of “the Man” and stifling creativity and authenticity?
Some felt it was, and struck out on their own, embracing a different version of life in the worldwide hippie movement of the 1960s and the sexual revolution…
How do I know? My parents were among those people!
I have a different view of family than those who want to redefine or do away with its historical conception:
While I believe that change is inevitable, but that the concept of family has actually become more important than ever in our current times.
If you ask me, family has been unfairly crapped on in the past decades by Hollywood and mainstream culture as a boring, oppressive institution of the past.
I couldn’t disagree more.
While the definition of a family has always evolved throughout history, this age of technological progress and rapid acceleration has made it more necessary than ever to reflect on the value and profound meaning of family.
Family may be changing, but family matters. Now more than ever.
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