How important is your family to you?
This isn’t rhetorical. I’m seriously asking.
A common response to this question often goes something like, “They are more important to me than anyone or anything in the world….except maybe God,” or, “they are more important to me than life itself.” Sound familiar? Have you responded similarly? I know I have.
These are respectable answers and I’m not minimizing such heartfelt feelings for a second, but the next question will take your understanding to a whole new level.
Do your words and actions express to your family how important they are?
Feelings are one thing – but taking action and putting effort where your heart is, is quite another.
Day in and day out we make choices that send clear messages to our family. Are the messages you send filled with love and respect or are they conveying feelings of contempt, disinterest or unimportance?
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I vividly remember a time when my ex-husband made it clear how unimportant our family was to him.
One of my sons had just finished a baseball game for our city league and we planned to go out to dinner after the game. As we walked toward the parking lot I suggested we let the boys choose where to eat. While I can’t recall exactly which restaurant the kids decided on, I do remember that my ex wasn’t interested in going.
He was in the mood for Chinese food.
You see, it wasn’t that he didn’t like the boys’ food choice, my ex would eat just about anything after all, he just ‘felt’ like eating Chinese food.
We were a family on the go a lot and probably ate out more than we should. He could have graciously agreed and then bargained to have us commit to Chinese food next time. That would have been a fun and easy fix. I tried this angle with him but it was to no avail. He wanted Chinese food and he wanted it right then.
Are you kidding me?
We were at an impasse and stood staring at each other in the parking lot. Then, without any hesitation whatsoever, my ex announced he would go to Chinese alone and meet us home afterward.
I was stunned.
I remember feeling like a bomb had been dropped in my gut and the world just sank around me. Really? The food he wanted to consume was more important than spending time with his family? ABSOLUTELY! And I knew he was dead serious. We met at the ball field after work, so consequently, had each driven separately. He had keys in hand and was ready to leave.
To this day I can’t recall what we ended up doing. Did we argue? Did we split up for dinner or end up eating together? Who knows! I can’t even remember if we got Chinese or not. You would think I’d be able to recall this significant detail, but after that profoundly defining moment when food came before family, it all became a blur. The reality and pain was THAT impactful.
Almost twenty years ago and it still stings today.
The truth is I shouldn’t have been shocked. I had often ignored frequent, similar messages, but this was a far more blatant exhibition and I just couldn’t shake it.
What messages are you sending your family?
The hurtful messages we convey to our family aren’t always this obvious, at least not to us, but they’re still destructive and damaging. You might relate to some of these common offenses:
- ‘Yessing’ but not really knowing what you are saying yes to
- Making a promise just to pacify – with no intention of keeping it
- Constantly putting something off that you’ve agreed to do
- Having no empathy or not realizing the significance of something to a family member
- Always rushing and not stopping long enough to listen without multitasking (This is something I must continue to work on!)
- Talking over others (Ditto!)
- Making decisions for others
- Bullying to get your way
- Living selfishly and not as a family unit
Granted, there are going to be times when your spouse or kids must wait for your attention, when you need to say ‘no’ (or at least ‘not now’), when plans change, or when consequences must be doled out, but how you handle and express it can go a long way in showing your family you love them, are interested, care deeply, and mean what you say.
Is your family really THAT important? Then put your words and actions where your heart is each and every day! Is your spouse willing to do the same? If either of you struggle in this area, talk about it, write down goals, read books, counsel with someone trusted, or seek professional help. DO NOT delay. Don’t perpetuate brokenness. Don’t miss out on true love and joy with your family. And by all means, don’t choose selfish desires over the ones you love.