Friday, November 18, 2005

Harmony in the Home

I'm catching up to a few requests. This article is one of those that has been requested many times, regarding family conflicts. I'd much rather write about more pleasant things, but this may lead to something pleasant to someone out there.

What person who really wants to do right, would object to harmony among family members? If you've labored toward that end, you might be surprised at some of the undermining, some of the remarks, and some of the looks you get. People who have been married 30 years or more are often surprised at the new pressures they receive from others, about the longevity of their union. Seasoned homemakers whose children are grown will often be challenged by questions that demand to know what they are going to "do" now that house is empty. (It is never empty for long, I assure you.)

Strong families whose grown children assemble with them often for things like Thanksgiving or just special family get-togethers, are sometimes pulled apart by jealous folks who don't like to see happiness resting on their doorstep. The world thinks that close families are abnormal or unhealthy, and they attempt to split them apart. I recently talked to one heart-broken woman whose daughters will not even speak to her. They grew up in her home, and while home, were wonderful together, but were later influenced by rebellious friends. "You don't have to honor your parents," they were told, "because now you are on your own. You are grown up."

I've written further on this in an article for LAF ( which will be published later on, but I thought it might be good to express some inside views from friends of mine, about this problem, which will not be contained in the article. The title of the upcoming article is "Manners: Honoring Your Parents." It has not been published there yet.

I talked to a 30 year old girl who is living at home with her parents. She wants to marry but has not had that opportunity so far. In the meantime, she finds it best to be at home under her father's care and protection. She is not idle, and has many irons in the fire so to speak, as she is involved in helping with the Crisis Pregancy Center. She does live at home, though, and says she has had to stand her ground in the face of criticism. She receives the typical derision and remarks from others--not just her peers, but from the older people as well. They were from a generation that left their parents, not to marry, but to get out on their own, get apartments and get away from the family so that they could do as they pleased. They tell her that she is grown up now, and that it is ridiculous to be living at home. She also has sisters a little younger than she, living at home.

Another young woman I'm acquainted with, has come up with a good comeback, which she recently expressed to me: "There is no age-limit on honoring your parents." People assume that just because one is at home, they are under an austere set of rules and must be bossed by their parents. This is simply not true. Women who live at home, choose to do so for a number of reasons. One of them is that they enjoy the family harmony. They enjoy meals with their parents and good times at home. If they were out on their own, they would probably find themselves spending most of their spare time at home, anyway, just for the company and the fellowship. The single life is not all it is portrayed to be. It is an expensive life and a lonely life; two things which are solved by living at home.

I once attended a class where a very interesting illustration was presented on a board. The teacher drew a picture of an umbrella, and labelled it "Protection." Above the umbrella where he drew drops of rain, he wrote "Authority." Under the umbrella he drew a father and a mother and some children of various heights, some nearly as tall as the parents. On the right of the umbrella, he drew a terrible rainstorm, with all kinds of black swirls and big drops of hail. It might seem silly to some, but from my own experience of leaving home at an early age, I could see his point. He drew one of the family members walking away from authority. The person did not realize that in his attempt to get away from his family, he was also getting away from their protection. We have the same concept with civil law. It protects you as long as you stay under its authority. When you go contrary to the authority, you enter into all kinds of trouble.

The parents in this family are very interested in young people and often invite them to their home so that their daughters have a good social life. As an older person, (I hate saying that--I'm not that old!) I can attest to the happiness it brings when young people are included in my life. I can provide things that they often cannot, such as hospitality and a place to visit, and they can stimulate my mind and bring new thoughts to a conversation. The old and the young were created to interact together.

When a family is created, children are not born in batches of 20 peers, and married couples consist of just two. Yet we have a modern mindset that is harming the harmony that was once felt in the home, by insisting that young people travel and talk with only people their age. Young people need to be around the wisdom and understanding of the older people, and older people need the vitality of the young. (This is one of my objections to some kinds of education. They way it is set up, youth is not exposed to various age groups.) In real life, the family consists of people of many different ages and places in their lives. Peer groups do not provide this variety and this insight into life.

The secret to harmony in the home is respect for authority, and an honoring attitude. There are forces that do not want this harmony. "Why should you spend the holidays with your folks? Come and hang out with us, instead." They will then tell the parents, "Susan is old enough to make up her own mind. She has her own life now." All this is true, but it is not the issue. The issue is , harmony in the family, and honoring to parents.

There are many reasons to honor our parents, but one important one is because they watch for our souls. If you haven't got parents, there is probably someone in your family that you must respect and honor. Honoring means that you don't say anything derogatory about your parents or your family. Honoring means that you don't do things that would embarrass or shame your family. It means you don't shout at your parents, stage blowups at home, taunt or sneer at your siblings, be critical, argumentive, or hold resentments for years and years. Those are the don'ts.

The do's consist of remembering their special cautions, listening to their requests, being courteous and thoughtful (as you would anyone else), knowing what their goals are, and appreciating them for their sacrfices they made for you. As the young woman said, "There is no age limit on honoring." I will add to that "there is no time limit for honoring." Some of us have sadly parted with our parents through death, but we continue to honor them by living in a way that they taught us, that would not dishonor their name or nullify their raising of us.

To conclude the matter, I would like to say that most of the dis-harmony in the home can be traced back to a dishonoring, disrespectful spirit, and not always on the inside of the home. There are those on the outside who have had disruptive lives, lived rebelliously, and despised their parents and siblings. They meet other people who have done the same thing. If you have an honoring and harmonious home life, you look wierd to them. They don't understand your joys and your sorrows. They will not sympathise with you when there are problems in your home. They will not understand why you want to bother to work to create harmony in your home. They could be somewhat jealous also.

Ive even known of boyfriends who instigate troubles in their girlfriend's families. A truly upstanding young man or young woman, would do all they could to encourage their prospective mates, dates, or whatever they are (they don't really court or date these days, do they--they just sort of "hang out" together..) Instead, some of them seem to relish the conflict that the young lady has with her parents. I would like to give a stern warning to anyone who is "going" with such a girl or guy: get away from them as fast as you can. If they don't honor your parents and encourage you to honor and reconcile, you will find conflict continually in your life as long as you are associated with them. If you marry, your own children will have conflicts, due to that perrson's attitude toward authority.

Harmony can be restored to the home. You are much better off trying to get it, than abandoning all hope. A runner who enters a race, enters to finish, even if he lags behind and is having difficulties. You can establish certain practices in your own life that will restore harmony to the home. Things like creating beauty and order in the dwelling place, serving others in your family whether they return the favor or not, respecting the dwelling place and looking after personal posessions, not answering back rudely or in a way that will enflame anger, not speaking to others about family members, and sticking by one another--defending one another, rather than pulling the family apart. You can help other families be strong by reinforcing their family values, rather than sympathising with a complainer. You can reinforce struggling marriages by encouraging them to stay together. You can teach the message of reconciliation, a word that is rarely heard in families today.

Harmony in the home is more than having the right rug or a matching tea set. These things only add joy if the family has co-hesivness. The best way I know to work on this, is to speak only good of one another, to each other, and everyone else. We may not know we are doing it, but sometimes even if we say, "My husband is a terrible organizer. His papers are everywhere," we send a negative message to the immature among us, who may use that later as an excuse to chip away at your relationship.

Husbands and wives used to be able to tell silly jokes about their relationships, and people would understand, but today, there is a greater threat in the air. If a husband says, "I'll have to ask the chief before I can give you an answer," or "I wear the pants in the family," there are those who are too immature to understand it, who will take it a different way. Eventually they will form opinions of hatred toward the wife, and translate that negativity to the husband, which will demean the wife in his eyes, and then there will be conflict.

People with small minds conclude that the husband or wife must be a terrible person, and will chip at your loyalty in attempt to get you to "find happines." I have recently heard of two marriage counsellors, who instead of trying to get the couple back together, encouraged them each to do whatever made them feel good, or made them happy. This couple paid over $500.00 to recieve this advice that separated them even further. My husband gave them free advice: You will never be truly happy unless you do the right thing.

These jokes and comments were always good-natured and didn't mean anything derogatory, but I've noticed today, there is a generation that doesn't "get it." They may take these comments very literally and very seriously and cause trouble in your home. Much of this lack of understanding comes from not really being brought up in homes, where a natural banter goes on between the father and the mother, and where common expressions about homelife are developed. Daycares and schools have taken these things away from many people.

To create harmony in the home, sometimes you might just have to shut the doors and shut out the world and regroup. You may have to speak up for the family and take some unpopular stands. Some people can't stand happiness in others, and will say what they can to discourage your happy, harmonious family. Create happiness in your family; teach forgiveness by forgiving, love by loving, acceptance by accepting, gratitude by gratefulness. Make things right as quickly as possible and always right wrongs and make up with people as quickly as you can. Be kind, be nice, be patient, be good.If you give yourself completely to these things and they don't respond, you'll at least create harmony in your own life.

I've chosen "Lighting the Course" by Judy Gibson, which you can order from allposters, because of its symbollic meaning to this article. The harmony of the home is both a protectorate and a guide.


Anonymous said...

A well written article, Mrs. Sherman, and while I may not accept your ideas to the word, this is certainly one I'd recommend to 'today's generation'.

You are on the dot when you speak of those familes that are jealous of a family's unity and connive to tear them apart. One would think that being the rational animals we are, these families would learn from the successes around them, instead of spreading the weakness they hate to see in themselves.

You could not have picked a better word to describe a child's ideal attitude to his or her parents. Honor - a rare word today, isn't it? There is little concept of honor in today's society, and this may be the result of children not learning to honor their parents. After all, every good habit must be practiced from the start.

Honor cannot possibly wane once you reach adulthood - if anything, your newfound identity, maturity and strength is best used to live with a code of honor - one that requires you to respect your family, to live for them as they lived for you, and to carry on and better the family legacy. Thus as your friend said, "There is no age-limit on honoring your parents." If anyone thinks that there is, he or she has no concept of honor and is no different from the animals that plague society today.

Allow me to digress. I confess I do not share your faith in civil law - this probably makes me anarchist in politicspeak. Civil law is set by society, and the quality of a society decides the quality of the law and its execution. Society has degraded over the years, and hence I fail to see wisdom in laws that are set today.

Getting back to the theme of your article, I see how my approach to honor may differ from yours. For instance, I have engaged in 'bawls' with my father, arguing vociferously over the point in contention. However, the moment his decision is made, I stand by it, regardless of its consequences. Also - this you would agree with - we never run each other down in front of someone else, and stand with each other through thick and thin.

The freedom I have to argue with my father, I am proud to say, has in no manner deteriorated our relationship. Five minutes after the most fierce engagement, we hug each other and talk like old comrades-in-arms. Of course, when you're 24, your tie with your father becomes more of a young man - mentor relationship. My love for my father has only increased over the years.

Thank you for a very readable article. I am looking forward to your next one.

kapil kaisare

Lydia said...

I think that freedom to argue with your father is a lot different than the kind of fights that are deliberately orchestrated by a young person so they can have an excuse to accuse and hate his parents. Most parents aren't really well versed in handling arguments, and will not respond as graciously as they could had it been carefully thought out. Often the young person uses this off the cuff reply as a further reason to alienate his parents. We aren't talking about the Italians here in the US who shout and yell at each other and are hugging the next minute. These people's intent is to maintain closeness. It is different with the dishonoring type of arguing that goes on.

Lydia said...

Children should reinforce their parents marriage and do what they can to aid in their happiness in marriage. They should say good things to Daddy about Mama, and vice versa, rather than trying to drive a wedge between them.

Lydia said...

Mr. Kapil,

You mean you people over there don't pay any attention to the traffic lights? I always used that as an illustration of civil authority being imposed for the purpose of protection and order.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Sherman

Traffic lights are paid attention to in Bombay. In Pune, however...

I think I understand your perspective better now, thanks to your traffic-light stand. But I was referring to the more controversial aspects of civil law, especially ones that are manipulated by certain segments of society. If your idea of civil law includes taxation (in some countries, I understand these are called tax laws and are separate from civil laws), then the taxation laws concerning charity organizations are constantly manipulated by companies to pay less tax. Many such examples of misuse of law exist.

And then you have countries where the use of narcotic drugs is a legal activity - inspite of the knowledge that narcotics are harmful to you. And what about countries which, like mine, donot allow possesion of arms, thus rendering me handicapped when I have to protect my family against criminals, who will be armed - despite the law? The police may be a phone call away, but that is time enough for a lot to happen, isn't it?

I am not against rules. Rules are an inevitable consequence of society. I just suspect most laws to fall short of achieving their intended goal.

Lydia said...

I think we all understand your point about some of the more nebulous problems in civil government where justice is not done. We have a problem in the Justice system here. It is becoming corrupt to the point that only money will buy you fair treatment, and if you are even taken to court on false charges, you can lose everything. We understand things like this. We do find, however, that those who maintain an honoring attitude toward their parents and grandparents, husbands and wives, are less likely to get entangled with civil authorities. When a policeman stops me and gives me a warning because I missed a traffic signal or made a wrong turn, I would no more think of disrespecting his authority on the grounds that I didn't like him personally or because I didn't agree with the rules, than I would my own parents. There is however, a way of winning through a personal technique called an "appeal,"--not anything to do with the court system or government, but a way of appealing to an authority without stepping out of line, and without threatening them. This could be addressed in a future article.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Sherman

My guiding principle in life has always been to offer respect to those who conduct themselves with honor, regardless of whether they are in a position of authority or otherwise. If a policeman had no concept of honor in his attitude towards me, I would be obliged to treat him as a dishonorable man.

Having said that, I accept your idea of the 'appeal' technique. It is how I would approach any figure of authority who was true to his job. However, I doubt its effectiveness against the corrupt.

Maybe I still misunderstand you. I think I'll look forward for that article you'll hopefully write.

Lydia said...

About 30 years ago we heard the following illustration, one among many, in regards to the subject of diplomacy and personal honor:

A man entering an elevator noticed that there were several women there also, so he removed his hat. (Don't know how that would apply today, since men don't wear hats indoors anymore). One of the women said sarcastically, "I suppose you did that because I am a lady?" He replied, "I don't know whether or not you are a lady. I did it because I am a gentleman."

We are probably talking about two different cultures. I know in some countries, if you put a uniform on someone, they think they are more important than they are, and misuse their authority. Here, it is understood that they are servants, and can lose their jobs if someone reports misconduct on their part.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a wonderful and inspiring article. Yes, this is even more important by far than the decor in our homes. I'm sure we can all do more to create the peace and honor you speak of.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this article. I fully believe that a parent needs to model desired behavior for their children, and be ready to deal appropriatly with undesirable behavior when it occurs. This becomes very difficult to do when we are having others raise our children, so parents need to make it a priority to know their children, and their children's friends. After all is said and done, this is a blessing to the parents and the children.
I think, also, that the most important thing that we can teach our children (and remember ourselves!) is to serve others. It is in the great and little things that we do for others that we are able to feel joy and peace. When we stop always putting ourselves and our wants first, and start focusing on others, there is harmony. Matthew 20:26-27