The Secret of Happy Family Life
“I bend my knees to the Father, to whom every family in heaven and on earth owes its name.”—Eph. 3:14, 15.
1-3. How do some persons feel about the standards for a happy family life, and what questions does this raise?
WHAT sane person does not want his family life to be happy? If it is not happy at present, most persons would be willing to apply any means that they feel might help them to succeed in finding real family unity and happiness.
2 In searching for the secret of happy family life, some have the view that this technological world poses problems no other age has faced. So they feel that a different moral standard is needed. They also believe that the world is more enlightened in every way than were past generations.—Prov. 30:13.
3 Is this true? Technology has accentuated some of the age-old problems, yes. But has human nature changed? Are people less desirous of being treated kindly and less susceptible to love? The way in which we have used our scientific and industrial advancement—has it solved our problems, or has it, instead, made us less human in our approach to social relations?
4. Why is it unwise to feel that we can discard all previous standards as to family life?
4 Assessing matters honestly, we must admit that today’s generation is no more intelligent or no better than past ones. In fact, the intelligence we have, we inherited from them. So we cannot safely or sensibly throw over all the basic standards followed by practically every nation on earth for thousands of years—for example, monogamy, family headship and the importance of the family unit—especially since these have proved beneficial. In fact, it is deviation from these principles that has caused most family unhappiness.
WHERE PROPER STANDARDS ORIGINATE
5, 6. (a) How does Romans 2:14, 15 show the origin of the marital and other standards that most nations have followed? (b) How do the Scriptures, as at Deuteronomy 6:7 and 31:12, show that families should be together as much as possible? (c) How should the family head view the opinions of the other family members?
5 More importantly, where did these standards of family life originate? Were they the product of man’s logic, or were they drawn from trial-and-error experience? Neither. They came from the Creator of men and women, the Establisher of the family as the basic unit of human society. Even about the nations that do not acknowledge the true God, the Bible says: “Whenever people of the nations that do not have [the Mosaic] law do by nature the things of the law, these people, although not having law, are a law to themselves. They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness with them and, between their own thoughts, they are being accused or even excused.”—Rom. 2:14, 15.
6 So the laws of many of the nations—their laws that tend toward holding families together—are a result of the moral standards and natural feelings put into the human makeup at creation. Accordingly, in all nations we see some families that enjoy a considerable measure of happiness. The members of these families have true natural affection. Usually there are good communication and common interests that weld the family together. They work together, play together, and respect one another. While the family head finalizes decisions on important matters, everyone is respectfully granted a hearing ear as to his ideas or opinions. There is a feeling of freedom of thought, speech and action, limited only by the best interests of the family and of the individual.
7. How does Psalm 127:1 show what is the primary factor for happiness in family life?
7 But for the greatest assurance of permanent happiness that will weather the economic ups and downs, the temptations of the so-called “modern morality” and the disappointments of this world, a good relationship with God is the primary thing. If that relationship is gained and maintained, all other features of family life will “fall into place,” and even if matters do not always turn out precisely as one might desire, they can be coped with and handled in the most successful way possible.—Ps. 127:1.
8, 9. Using Romans 7:19, 20, show why it is necessary to work hard to apply Bible principles.
8 What are some of the factors involved in maintaining a good relationship with God and, as a consequence, a good relationship among family members?
9 First, there must be love and affection, along with a genuine display of these qualities. Humankind, made originally ‘in the likeness of God,’ still possesses these good qualities in a measure, though sin has dimmed them to a great extent. (Gen. 1:26, 27) Therefore, it is essential to strive constantly to put into application the Bible’s principles governing the family. Let us consider a few of these principles.
10 At the beginning God said: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) Jesus Christ added: “Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.” (Matt. 19:6) This knowledge is a safeguard, restraining the married person from looking with longing eyes at others of the opposite sex and from actions that could lead to defilement of the marriage. He (or she) knows that marital unfaithfulness can ruin the family happiness and damage or break his relationship with God. In any case, the unavoidable effect is the branding of lasting scars on the heart and life of every family member.
PROPER VIEW OF FAMILY HEADSHIP PROMOTES HAPPINESS
11. In what way is the husband the family head?
11 Having accepted this view of oneness of the married pair, we next see from the Bible that, while the marriage is a partnership arrangement, there must be order. God has provided this by making the husband the head of the family. The husband is the “senior partner,” available to be consulted, and responsible for the final decisions on matters affecting the family’s welfare. The Christian apostle Paul wrote: “A husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation. . . . In this way husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it.”—Eph. 5:23-29.
12. Why, according to Ephesians 5:29, does the good husband not use his authority tyrannically, and, therefore, how will he deal with the members of his family?
12 A good husband, appreciating the God-ordained responsibility that he has, will try to engender respect, not merely because he is head—and certainly not from any supposition that he is “boss”—but because his wife is one with him and he does not want to hurt her or bring disrepute upon himself (and his Creator) by tyrannical use of authority. Rather, he will encourage his wife and other members of the family to be free in their interchange of ideas, thoughts and feelings. He will keep the lines of communication open by being readily and kindly approachable upon any subject or problem. He will also respect their feelings, weigh their opinions impartially, and accord them certain authorities within their realm of activity in the family arrangement.
13, 14. Commenting on the description of a “capable wife” in Proverbs 31, outline the authorities and duties that she may be granted.
13 For example, the wife, in most cases, supervises the house. The Bible says of a “capable wife”: “She has rewarded [her husband] with good, and not bad.” “She has sought wool and linen, and she works at whatever is the delight of her hands.” “Her owner is someone known in the gates, when he sits down with [his fellow] older men of the land.” “Her sons have risen up and proceeded to pronounce her happy; her owner rises up, and he praises her.”—Prov. 31:10, 12, 13, 23, 28.
14 From this it is seen that the wife should be given latitude to manage the household. Proving herself a good worker, capable and apt in handling these things, she usually would be the one planning the decoration of the home, the buying of food and, perhaps, furniture and other things that promote family happiness. The husband would intervene only when her plans or spending would be unwise or would endanger the family’s economy or welfare.
15 The appreciative husband never forgets to give his wife encouragement and to acknowledge freely her hard work and her accomplishments in the family’s behalf. His associates respect him because her fine qualities reflect his good headship and loving attention to her. (1 Cor. 11:7) Both husband and children speak well of her on every occasion. Neither the good husband nor the good wife ever ‘runs down’ the mate by speaking disparagingly of him or her before others. They shrink from the thought of bringing such public disgrace and humiliation upon the family.
WIFE’S ROLE ESSENTIAL TO FAMILY HAPPINESS
16, 17. (a) Is Scriptural subjection of a wife slavery for her, or what? (b) How will the good wife act in a situation where her husband disagrees on a family matter?
16 The wife can have a great share in making the family happy. First, she realizes the truth of the Bible’s advice: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord.” “In fact, as the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything.” “The wife should have deep respect for her husband.” (Eph. 5:22, 24, 33) This subjection, rather than being slavery, actually brings liberation to the woman from the heavy responsibilities that the husband, being the head, must measure up to, in the sight of both God and men.
17 The good wife understands that, in a situation where she may think she is right, she should, nevertheless, submit to her husband’s decision if he sees the matter differently. She should not hypocritically claim to submit, while using devious means to try to control the situation. Of course, where a violation of Christian conscience may be involved, the Christian will obey God first.—Acts 5:29.
18, 19. (a) Comment on the effect of a contentious wife, as described in Proverbs 27:16. (b) When one of the marriage partners becomes irritated at what might be viewed as stubbornness or troublesomeness on the other’s part, what should be kept in mind?
18 The good wife also understands that, while her husband is charged by the Scriptures ‘not to be bitterly angry’ with his wife, she must be careful that she does not give him occasion to feel that way toward her. (Col. 3:19) The right-minded husband does not want to fight with her over issues, or to use force in exercising headship. The effect of an unsubmissive, anger-prone or quarrelsome wife is described at Proverbs 27:16: “Anyone sheltering her has sheltered the wind, and oil is what his right hand encounters.” The husband is frustrated, he cannot restrain her, and her unsubmissiveness becomes public knowledge, to the family’s disgrace.
19 Of course, with human imperfection, it is unavoidable that irritating situations will occur. But people actually want to be happy and are rarely trying to be troublesome. So, both mates, rather than using retaliatory measures, will, by exercising self-control, speak words that promote love and happiness.
CHILDREN, A SOURCE OF HAPPINESS
20-22. (a) When should real training of a child begin, and why? (b) Why is even a small baby able keenly to sense lack of love or an injustice, and, therefore, what care must be taken from the time of the baby’s birth?
20 Children do much to bring unity and happiness into the home if they are loved, acknowledged and properly trained. When should such training begin?
21 First the parents should not underestimate the newborn baby’s intelligence. He (or she) is not a “second-rate” person. Remember, the baby is born with the godly qualities of love and justice. He is a very intelligent creature. He merely lacks information and experience in order to become full-grown mentally. Unlike animals, which act primarily on instinct, the human baby must learn nearly everything. So he hungrily takes in all he sees and hears. Therefore, training starts at birth, for everything said or done in the baby’s presence should be upbuilding. Love should be lavished upon him. At the same time, anything wrong should be corrected in a kind, considerate manner.—2 Tim. 3:15; 1:5.
22 Keep in mind that the child is you in a smaller edition. A child does not want people to talk “baby talk” to him any more than you do. Life is serious business and a young child wants to learn to do as grown-ups do. Being without guile, he quickly and keenly senses injustice, hypocrisy or lack of love. That is why the qualities of justice, love, mercy and other fruits of the spirit must not be violated in dealing with the child. They must also be cultivated in the child from the beginning.—Prov. 22:6.
23, 24. (a) Why is a brusque dismissal of a child’s questions, or lack of interest in what he is doing, a crushing blow? (b) If the parent cannot immediately show interest, what should he (or she) do?
23 Later on the child may come to you wide-eyed, to ask a question, or enthusiastically to show you something he has discovered. If you brush him off with, “Don’t bother me now,” he is crushed. You, the one he depended so much on, have failed him. He may not say anything, but there is a lasting scar, and a barrier begins to build up.
24 But what if you are genuinely too busy at the time? Kindly explain, just as you would to a grown-up, why you cannot take the time now, but that you will go into the matter later. Then be sure to do so as soon as possible. The child can be trained, when lovingly treated, to appreciate that there are appropriate times for certain things.
25, 26. Is it profitable to reason with a child even though he demonstrates a wrong desire or attitude?
25 Children, from infancy up, want reasons. Some time ago a popular television show presented an interview of a group of high-school youths and parents. The author of a book on parent-child relationships was present. When a live situation was demonstrated in which the parent reasoned with the youth as to why he had to say No to the teen-ager’s request, the author said to the parent: “I’m against you. I would merely say, ‘No, you can’t have it.’” At that, the entire group of youths rose up almost as one person, in disagreement. They said: “We want reasons, not mere commands.” Reasoning with young people helps in keeping open channels of communication.
26 In case a parent finds it difficult to reason with his children, he can follow no better outline than the book of Proverbs, particularly the first seven Pr chapters 1-7, which relate counsel from a God-fearing father to his son.
27. (a) Along what lines should a husband pattern his headship? (b) Why would being called a ‘daughter of Sarah’ be a fine compliment to a woman, as Peter says at 1 Peter 3:6?
27 Consequently, since God is the Designer of the family arrangement, and since man was made in the image of God, the good husband recognizes the godlike qualities, desires and feelings of the members of his family. He exercises headship in imitation of God and Christ. He demonstrates that he recognizes the Divine Headship over himself and directs his family to respect, above all, that Headship. (1 Cor. 11:3) Wives who recognize this principle follow the pattern of Sarah, Rebekah and other faithful women who served God. A wife could receive no finer compliment than to be called a true ‘daughter of Sarah.’—1 Pet. 3:5, 6.
28, 29. Why is discipline needed and beneficial? (Heb. 12:9-11)
28 Love and kindness will predominate in the happy family, but discipline will not be neglected, for all need training, especially being the imperfect sinners that we are. (Heb. 12:9-11) The “discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah” is the foundation of child training. (Eph. 6:4) This includes reasoning, as contrasted with arbitrariness. Also, it involves example—the parent inculcates love for God by showing the family that he loves God wholeheartedly.
29 If each one in the family treats the others as God treats him, there is certain to be a happy family life.
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Parents should take every opportunity to make sure that their children know the truth about God’s handiwork