Several years ago while hiking with our kids in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, Rocky Mountain National Park, we realized that our beloved boys were doing a great impression of ungrateful, whiny brats. This perplexed and frustrated us until my husband and I remembered an earlier lesson: When we are not enjoying our children, it often means that we are the problem. Rather than railing against them (my default reaction), it became clear that we needed the parenting equivalent of a chiropractic adjustment.
That night after they went to bed, Christopher and I began processing where we had veered off track. It didn't take long for us to realize that we carried expectations for who they ought to be and how they should behave that we had never clearly communicated to them. We wondered if we could initiate a conversation that would get us all on the same page.
The next morning over breakfast, Christopher asked, "What are some of the characteristics that we already have as a family and what are a few areas where we could grow?" It became one of the most engaging, dynamic conversations that we've ever had! What started as a problem led to a powerful process of solidifying our sense of family identity.
Together we identified the following ten family values.
1. Hospitable. We practice hospitality on a regular basis. Whether it's inviting international visitors or neighbors over for a meal, we take seriously the notion that sitting down at the table with others is one of the best ways to get to extend God's kingdom.
2. Generous. We are generous with the resources that we have. This runs the gamut from cheerfully sharing our personal belongings to sponsoring several children through Compassion International, to giving money to those in need whenever we are able.
3. Truthful. We commit to not deceiving anyone, regardless of the cost to us. We admit it when we have neglected or wronged someone. We communicate with one another when something is bothering us. We do so assuming the best of the other and maintaining a commitment to work things out.
4. Forgiving. Closely connected to number three, we forgive one another. The process of forgiveness is perhaps one of the most essential ingredients to living in harmony. It is also a cornerstone of our faith. This is something we can't take for granted. We taught the boys a script when they were younger that they still follow. After one son punched and blooded another son's nose, he was "encouraged" to say, "I am sorry that I punched you in the face. Will you forgive me?" When he was ready, the injured son responded, "I forgive you for hitting me." Then they hugged. It may sound contrived, but it really works.