Leo Tolstoy wrote, “All happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
We rarely read stories about happy families in the newspaper, but sometimes the stories of unhappy families are so unusual they are picked up by national news services. The following is such a story: Robert and Carol, brother and sister, got together to settle the estate of their eighty-two-year-old uncle, their mother’s brother. They had not spoken to each other since a dispute over the family’s lake cabin many years before. While settling the estate, they also settled their differences. Then Robert asked Carol, “Where are you keeping Mom?”
Startled, Carol replied, “We thought you were taking care of her.” Further discussion revealed that Carol stopped visiting her mother three years before because of a falling out. She continued to pay her mother’s property tax and utility bills but had no contact with her. Robert, apparently thinking his mother was siding with his sister in their disagreement, had also cut off contact.
Carol and Robert decided they had better check on how their eighty-year-old mother was doing. They drove to the house in the same city in which they both lived. It was run-down and neglected. They found their mother. Her body had been decomposing on the living room floor of the dilapidated little house for over a year.
When the story made the news, reporters interviewed neighbors who said that the woman had been a recluse. She had frequently cursed neighbors and had driven off with a broom anyone who tried to approach her door. They said there had been no signs of life for a long time so they had assumed she had gone to a nursing home or to live with one of her children. They thought little about the matter except to complain about the disgraceful condition of her yard. No one had gone near the house to investigate. She lived alone and she had died alone.
The Federal Department of Health and Human Services funded a study on 3,000 strong families to determine what makes a family strong. The families studied included many racial, ethnic, and economic levels in North and South America, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and South Africa. The conclusions of the study were published in a book edited by Dr. George Rekers entitled Family Building: Six Qualities of a Strong Family (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1985). The six qualities that each strong family has in common are:
- They are committed to the family.
- They spend time together.
- They have good family communication.
- They express their appreciation to each other.
- They have a spiritual commitment.
- They are able to solve problems in a crisis.
It’s easy to judge Carol and Robert’s family. No doubt they fell down in each of these six areas. But how does your own family rate in these qualities? Are you committed to each other and do you tell each other so? Does your commitment to God enable you to deal with each other in grace (as God has dealt with you)? Do problems draw you closer together or tear you apart?
Join us as during the month of May as Mentoring Moments explores Family @ Full Strength in Christ. Spoiler alert: the only way to experience the love and commitment of a strong, happy family life is to bring the love that Christ modeled for us and teaches us into your family relationships.
[Part of this post first appeared in Vicki Huffman’s book, Plus Living: Looking for Joy in All the Right Places is available through amazon.com in print and e-book.]