I've had the idea of starting to share my feelings about the family on a blog or a website for several times now. But I've always wanted to be clever about it. Because the family isn't just nice, picnics, and Mr. Rogers, it's relevant just like the environment, the economy, college football rankings, and technology! I think it's more relevant. Be informed!
It's not just relevant, it's also an ideal like freedom or responsibility or good humor. They aren't tangible--they are just things in our heads that have enough meaning to change what we behave and what we expect. They are at the same time very important, wonderful, and easy to take for granted, unless you realize why they're so important. They're like national parks. You start out just knowing where one is and what it looks like there. Then you start to realize things you like about it when you've visited there because there are things there that you can't experience elsewhere. Like how quiet it is, the fact that you can escape from civilization and reminders of civilization, and the fact that it's going to stay this way for a while. But then you start to realize that in order for it to stay this way, most everyone that uses the place has to feel about the same way about it. You realize that litter is a reminder of civilization and, in fact, even a reminder of uncivilization and, though a small thing, can take a lot away from what the place is. Carving mathematical expressions of love into living things, though they are trees and don't complain, and are surely always signs of enduring commitment, are not appreciated by others. So you don't do those things and you want to tell other people with enough persuasion why national parks are so great it's so nice to have a place look like no one else has been there so they don't want to either. Let alone do things like start forest fires or poison the water holes or paint the buffalo green. You also get upset if people start saying national parks are actually more like amusement parks and therefore one should expect them to be dirty and noisy and have green buffalo.
So that's actually my attempt at being clever about writing about the family. If it wasn't that clever oh well. It's taking too long. It's like waiting forever for the right words to tell someone that you love them or that they owe you money (or both). You wait too long they don't want to pay the money and they don't want to hear about the love.
I have a great family. They aren't perfect, but they've been good enough to me that I really get upset when people carve initials in the trees of them (metaphorically). I've also known people that I really cared about that had bad things happen to them that wouldn't have if what family was was understood.
So this is what I think needs to be understood about family for it to be treated right.
Families aren't just nice. I don't like the word nice anyway. Nice usually ends up being civility on autopilot. It always takes more than nice for a family to work. It takes love. Maybe the family is sometimes seen as boring because people are thinking of nice. Yes, nice IS boring. Doing what you're supposed to when it's easy and when you don't have to think about it. That is nice. But you need love to take the risk to communicate with who has hurt you and may hurt you again. Or still wanting to be there for someone when they've let you down. That's more than nice. People who learn how to love in families will have the courage to make other hard choices for things they love.
Family values aren't nice. Morality isn't nice or restrictive. I heard in a conference talk today that virtue is strength--not snootiness or naivite but something you can stand for. I always think of this cannon object lesson I saw once. You light some gun powder out in the open and you don't even have to cover your ears. You light the same amount of gun powder inside a cannon and you get a really nice report (sound). AND the cannon ball blows something up. All because the explosion was contained. That's what happens when someone actually has morals. They gain strength and confidence by containing the decisions they make.
It's a lot tougher to have morals or love without the help of Heavenly Father. Both take grace and guidance. I don't think it's a coincidence that enduring values are all found together in the same place. I also think that love is something we learn by being loved. Love just doesn't come from nowhere. I think as times get tougher,
people will want to find other people with values. And people with values will want to find God.
I also think there are more people like that than I realize or anyone who feels that way does. I think that's why it's important to tell other people how you feel.