Nurturing Love for and within the Family
By: HFB Communications Team
◊◊Put simply, the Oxford dictionary defines love as a strong feeling of deep affection for something or somebody, especially a member of your family or a friend (Hornby, 2015). This article will adopt for a working definition of love as an intense feeling of affection for family members, friend and everyone alike. I refer to love rooted in God and expressed in our daily interactions with neighbors. Love, it is said, conquers all! Love in our families surpasses the rest. Jesus called it the new commandment, saying: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).
Love is our ‘identity’ “By this shall everyone know that you are my disciples if you have the love for one another (Jn. 13:35). Finally, Jesus described the love of God and neighbor as the two greatest commandments (Mt. 22: 37-39). These and similar texts in the scripture underscore the importance of love in the life of the believer. We should nourish the love in our families and home. A happy and loving family is indeed a wonderful thing. Suffice to ask at this juncture, ‘Where do we begin to express this love in the family?’ In marriage and family life, it all begins when a man and woman first start off as friends, fall in love, get married, and out of their love, come children.
The problem is now, how to keep this love alive and growing, for love requires constant attention. Unless it is nourished by constant care, like a plant without water it, will shrivel and die. The most important thing we can do to nourish the love in our families is to live the first and greatest commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with thy entire mind” (Matthew 22:37). Our Heavenly Father is the source of all truth and all love. By loving him we draw close to him and become more like him. As that happens, we receive from him the knowledge and power to love each family member, to better nurture their love, and to meet the daily challenges in our homes.
The Savior defined the second great commandment as “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” Matthew 22:39). Our closest neighbors are the members of our own families. And yet we sometimes fail to treat them with the same courtesy and kindness that we grant to strangers. Does this really add up? The family is the great laboratory of learning and love. Like every other value which parents are expected to inculcate into their children, parenting love in the family must be given a priority of place in the home. But how do we parents love as a value in the family, one may ask? This must and should necessarily begin with the love between parents (father and mother). In the first place, the couple’s love for each other which serves as the foundation for the union should grow in love for each other as parents.
A practical example could be seen in the way parents correct each other in love, express their misunderstandings and discuss their issues together in love (cf Gal 6:1-2). This parents’ love for each other is transmitted early to the children in the quality of attachment (the emotional bond between children and their primary caregiver) that is formed from the moment of birth through the early stages of infant development. Next, the children experiencing the love between their parents also learn to imitate same in their love for each other as siblings.
With this, an atmosphere of love is nurtured and promoted in the family which will also impact on the relationships that the children will form as adults in the society. The consequences of failure to nurture love in the family is vividly captured by a short passage from experiences of two elders working with prison inmates. Two elders were asked to conduct a religious service in the female section of a prison. For their opening song, they chose to sing “Love at Home.” As they were singing the first verse, one by one, the sisters in the prison stopped singing; their voices were choked, and tears began streaming down their faces. By the time the second verse was finished, none of the women was singing. All were weeping softly. The elders tried to sing the third verse by themselves, but their hearts became swollen with emotion, their eyes filled with tears, and they were unable to finish. After regaining composure, they concluded the service. Afterward, they talked with many of these women.
The inmates spoke of the great spiritual experience they had. But one by one they also stated, “There was no love in our home. It is important to nurture Love in the Family. In our quest for a better society, parenting God-centered love in the family is the responsibility of every parent since the family is the first school and church which every child passes through in life. Since we can only give what we have, it follows that nurturing love in the family empowers the children as adults to give love back to their own parents and the society even as they nurture same in their own families. Parents should not expect their children to love them and be loving ambassadors of their families if they fail in this responsibility of nurturing love in them through their own love for each other in the family. In this way, the parents will be fulfilling their obligation to God and the society, and at the same time helping their children to become agents of God’s love in the society. It is my fervent prayer that in spite of the harsh realities of life, parents will continue to nurture God’s love in their families by a life that is rooted in God’s love thereby making their home an oasis of love for their children and the society.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER:
As a way of learning how to nourish and express the love we feel for the members of our families, we might ask ourselves the following questions:
- Do I really listen to each family member? To be truly listened to is to feel loved. Do I listen to friends, neighbors, and co-workers more readily than to the most important people in my life — the members of my family? Do the concerns of my family receive as much of my attention as the concerns of others? Do I make time to listen to the members of my family regularly?
- Do I spend time with each family member? Developing love, harmony, and unity in a family takes time.
- Do I help each family member feel needed? To feel useful and appreciated is a basic human need. We can help family members fulfill this need by giving them opportunities to help us and then letting them know that we appreciate their help.
- Do I have the pure love of Christ, or charity, described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8? “Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth, not itself, is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.”
NB: All scripture text from King James Version of