Aby Jose reminds us of the importance of family units and how we can cultivate an atmosphere of positivity in our homes

Family is a place close to everyone’s heart. All of us toil day and night to be with our families, to give a better life for our loved ones. Family is where we begin our life, the place we go to, to share our happiness and celebrate our successes, for consolation during difficult times and for protection and support. When can we call ourselves a family? It is only when there is love and respect among the members. Below is an attempt to share a few thoughts on this from my journey so far.

In the Catholic context, a couple begins a family once they are united by the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. From then on, it is the love and respect between a husband and wife which forms the foundation for the growth of the family, and it is the key for a strong and resilient family in today’s secular and materialistic world. As Mother Teresa said “Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do”. It is when we pour love into all that we do, that we transform our house into a home and our family becomes a place where we love to spend time.

I felt the following is an appropriate scripture verse in this context. Romans 12:9-10 says “Let love be sincere. Hate what is evil and hold to whatever is good. Love one another and be considerate. Outdo one another in mutual respect”. Let our families be places where we live out these words of God; where we love each other sincerely, help each other to identify what is evil, stay away from it and have regard for one another. Respect is one of the greatest expressions of love. We can truly love someone only if we respect that individual for who he or she is, regardless of their strengths, weaknesses, abilities or disabilities, employment or unemployment, economic status etc. We need to learn to genuinely love and respect our family members and not allow our feelings, i.e. having a bad day, to dictate how we treat them. At the end of the day, our family is the one place where we can go to for support during downtimes in our life.

When we take things for granted, we forget to respect each other, whether it is our parents, spouse or children. The way I see it, listening is an expression of respect. It will be worthwhile reflecting on whether we spend enough time to listen to each other. Do we make time for small chats with our spouse? Do we take time out to play with the kids and give them our full attention? Do we make a genuine attempt to stop on time from our work every day or answering a last work email taking priority over our child who is calling us to join for a little fun game? It is a fine and delicate balance. As a family, we struggle a lot on this and I am sure we are not alone. This is where our community can help us, to share our struggles and help us not to get discouraged. With the proper support, sharing of best practices and praying for one another, there will be changes gradually.

We are our children’s greatest role models and we can teach them the importance of love and respect in life by practicing what we preach. As St. Paul says in his letter to Ephesians 6:1-3 “Children, obey your parents for this is right: Honour your father and your mother. And this is the first commandment that has promise: that you may be happy and enjoy long life in land”.

I came across a beautiful Bible verse sometime back and found it be so truthful , applying to all of us every day. Proverbs 11:27 says “Anyone can find the dirt in someone, be the one that finds the gold”. All of us spend a major share of our time with our family and it is quite natural and human to look for what is lacking rather than the positives. If we look for dirt in one another, we will find it. Rather we should make the effort to identify the real gold in those around us and we need to mine for this gold every day.  ‘Gold’ can be a good quality, a helpful gesture, a simple thank you, appreciation or even a valuable virtue in another person’s life. Once we start practicing and embracing this habit in our families, it will certainly give a new perspective to everything we do and bring a lot of positivity to our families. This in turn will help to boost our self-esteem, which helps us to love and respect each other.To end, I would like to quote St. Francis de Sales, “The measure of love is to love without measure.” As the love of God our father is unconditional, personal and unceasing, let us love and respect our loved ones without measure. Let our families be circles of strength, founded on faith, joined in love and respect and rooted in God.

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