Busting the Myth of Family Values
- Politicians often reference it as something they need to protect.
- Pastors may reference it as something sacred.
- Media delight in referencing it as something old fashioned.
But here’s the thing.
There is no such thing as family values.
Now… before you choose to profusely disagree with me or rush to tell me how wrong I am, please hear me out.
If you ask three different families to specifically define “Family Values”, you’ll get three different answers. The reason is because there is no common source in our culture that defines them.
They are not defined in school. They are not defined by government (beware if they try). And they are not defined by the media, your employer, or even your friends.
Of course, all of these are influencing factors. But none of them define ‘Family Values’.
Who Defines Family Values?
Who exactly determines your ‘Family Values’? It depends on how you define ‘Family’.
- If you are single, you alone determine your values and define what they mean.
- If you are married, you and your spouse define your values.
- If you view ‘family’ as including your parents, grandparents, aunts and/or uncles, brothers and/or sisters, or other individuals, then all of these together define your values.
Note that I did not include children. Within a family setting that includes children and one or more parents, it’s generally the parents that define the ‘Family Values’. Yes, children can influence the priority of values. But it’s the parents that make the determination of what matters most. (This is why it’s not uncommon for a parent to say to their independently minded teenager: “If you don’t like my rules, you can leave.”)
So what is the #1 Family Value? It depends.
In some families ‘Learning’ is the #1 value. In other families it’s ‘Order’. For many families, ‘Peace’ is their top value. For others, nothing matters more than everyone’s ‘Happiness’.
It may be true that most people value peace, happiness, love, freedom, independence, respect, honesty, flexibility, responsibility, order, generosity, creativity, etc., etc. etc. (the list is almost endless). But if you had to pick your top three values, it’s no simple task.
This is one of the reasons I wrote my free eBook Developing Your Differentiating Values. I wanted to provide a framework to help individuals and couples (and organizations) to identify and define their top 3 values.
Of course, major life changes have an impact too. When you get married, your list of top family values will likely change. Add children and the values might change again. When the kids leave home, or when you become a grandparent, your most important values might once again change.
Here’s the bottom line.
Your ‘Family Values’ define you and your family alone, at this moment in time.
Family Values represent what matters most to you and your family right now. They influence the decisions and behavior of every member of your family today. And the top values of your family are likely different than those of the family down the street.
So, the next time you hear a reference to ‘Family Values’ consider the bigger question:
What values are they promoting, and why are they endorsing them?
When someone talks about Family Values, they usually have an agenda and are trying to get more families on ‘their side’. The decision to adopt their values – or not – is up to you.
What do ‘Family Values’ mean to you?
What are your top 3 family values?