1. Why are strong families important in human society?
THE family is the oldest institution on earth, and it plays a vital role in human society. Throughout history, strong families have helped to make strong societies. The family is the best arrangement for bringing up children to be mature adults.
2-5. (a) Describe the security a child feels in a happy family. (b) What problems are reported in some families?
2 A happy family is a haven of safety and security. Envision the ideal family for a moment. During their evening meal, caring parents sit with their children and discuss the events of the day. Children chatter excitedly as they tell their father and mother about what happened at school. The relaxing time spent together refreshes everyone for another day in the world outside.
3 In a happy family, a child knows that his father and mother will care for him when he gets sick, perhaps taking turns at his bedside through the night. He knows that he can go to his mother or father with the problems of his young life and get advice and support. Yes, the child feels safe, no matter how trouble-filled the outside world may be.
4 When children grow up, they usually get married and have a family of their own. “A person realizes how indebted he is to his parents when he has a child of his own,” says an Oriental proverb. With a deep sense of gratitude and love, the grown children try to make their own families happy, and they also care for their now aging parents, who delight in the company of the grandchildren.
5 Perhaps at this point you are thinking: ‘Well, I love my family, but it is not like the one just described. My spouse and I work different schedules and hardly see each other. We talk mostly about money problems.’ Or do you say, ‘My children and grandchildren live in another town, and I never get to see them’? Yes, for reasons often beyond the control of those involved, much family life is less than ideal. Still, some lead happy family lives. How? Is there a secret of family happiness? The answer is yes. But before discussing what it is, we should answer an important question.
WHAT IS A FAMILY?
6. What kind of families will be discussed in this book?
6 In Western lands, most families consist of a father, a mother, and children. Grandparents may live in their own households as long as they can. While contact is kept up with more-distant relatives, duties toward these are limited. Basically, this is the family that we will discuss in this book. However, other families have become increasingly common in recent years—the single-parent family, the stepfamily, and the family whose parents are not living together for one reason or another.
7. What is the extended family?
7 Common in some cultures is the extended family. In this arrangement, if possible, grandparents are routinely looked after by their children, and close ties and responsibilities extend to distant relatives. For instance, family members may help to support, raise, and even pay for the education of their nieces, nephews, or more-distant relatives. The principles to be discussed in this publication apply also to extended families.
THE FAMILY UNDER STRESS
8, 9. What problems in some lands show that the family is changing?
8 Today the family is changing—sad to say, not for the better. An example is seen in India, where a wife may live with the family of her husband and work in the home under the direction of her in-laws. Nowadays, though, it is not uncommon for Indian wives to seek employment outside the home. Yet they are apparently still expected to fulfill their traditional roles in the home. The question raised in many lands is, Compared with other members of the family, how much work should a woman with an outside job be expected to do in the home?
9 In Oriental societies, strong extended-family ties are traditional. However, under the influence of Western-style individualism and the stress of economic problems, the traditional extended family is weakening. Many, therefore, view care of aged family members as a burden rather than as a duty or a privilege. Some elderly parents are abused. Indeed, abuse and neglect of the aged are found in many countries today.
10, 11. What facts show that the family is changing in European lands?
10 Divorce is becoming increasingly common. In Spain the divorce rate rose to 1 out of 8 marriages by the beginning of the final decade of the 20th century—a big jump from 1 out of 100 just 25 years before. Britain, with reportedly the highest divorce rate in Europe (4 out of 10 marriages are expected to fail), has seen a surge in the number of single-parent families.
11 Many in Germany seem to be abandoning the traditional family altogether. The 1990’s saw 35 percent of all German households made up of a single person and 31 percent made up of just two individuals. The French too are marrying less often, and those who do marry divorce more often and earlier than used to be the case. Growing numbers prefer to live together without the responsibilities of marriage. Comparable trends are seen worldwide.
12. How do children suffer because of changes in the modern family?
12 What of children? In the United States and many other lands, more and more are born out of wedlock, some to young teenagers. Many teenage girls have a number of children from different fathers. Reports from around the world tell of millions of homeless children roaming the streets; many are escaping from abusive homes or are cast out by families that can no longer support them.
13. What widespread problems rob families of happiness?
13 Yes, the family is in crisis. In addition to what has already been mentioned, teenage rebellion, child abuse, spousal violence, alcoholism, and other devastating problems rob many families of happiness. For a great number of children and adults, the family is far from being a haven.
14. (a) According to some, what are the causes of the family crisis? (b) How did a first-century lawyer describe today’s world, and what influence has the fulfillment of his words had on family life?
14 Why the family crisis? Some blame the present-day family crisis on the entry of women into the workplace. Others point to today’s moral breakdown. And additional causes are cited. Almost two thousand years ago, a well-known lawyer foretold that many pressures would afflict the family, when he wrote: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4) Who would doubt that these words are being fulfilled today? In a world with conditions such as these, is it any wonder that many families are in crisis?
THE SECRET OF FAMILY HAPPINESS
15-17. In this book, what authority will be pointed to as holding the secret of family happiness?
15 Counsel on how to achieve happiness in the family is offered from all sides. In the West, a never-ending stream of self-help books and magazines offer advice. The problem is that human counselors contradict one another, and what is fashionable counsel today may be viewed as unworkable tomorrow.
16 Where, then, can we look for reliable family guidance? Well, would you look to a book completed some 1,900 years ago? Or would you feel that a book like this must be hopelessly out-of-date? The truth is, the real secret of family happiness is found in just such a source.
17 That source is the Bible. According to all the evidence, it was inspired by God himself. In the Bible we find the following statement: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) In this publication we will encourage you to consider how the Bible can help you to ‘set things straight’ when handling the stresses and problems facing families today.
18. Why is it reasonable to accept the Bible as an authority in marriage counseling?
18 If you are inclined to dismiss the possibility that the Bible can help to make families happy, consider this: The One who inspired the Bible is the Originator of the marriage arrangement. (Genesis 2:18-25) The Bible says that his name is Jehovah. (Psalm 83:18) He is the Creator and ‘the Father, to whom every family owes its name.’ (Ephesians 3:14, 15) Jehovah has observed family life since mankind’s beginning. He knows the problems that can arise and has given counsel for solving them. Throughout history, those who sincerely applied Bible principles in their family life found greater happiness.
19-21. What modern experiences show the power of the Bible to solve marriage problems?
19 For example, a housewife in Indonesia was a compulsive gambler. For years she neglected her three children and regularly quarreled with her husband. Then she started to study the Bible. Gradually the woman came to believe what the Bible said. When she applied its counsel, she became a better wife. Her efforts, based on Bible principles, brought happiness to her entire family.
20 A housewife in Spain says: “We had been married only a year when we began to have serious problems.” She and her husband did not have much in common, and they spoke little except when they were arguing. Despite having a young daughter, they decided to get a legal separation. Before that happened, though, they were encouraged to look into the Bible. They studied its counsel for married men and women and began to apply it. Before long, they could communicate peacefully, and their small family was happily united.
21 The Bible helps older people too. For instance, consider the experience of a certain Japanese couple. The husband was short-tempered and sometimes violent. First, the couple’s daughters began to study the Bible, despite their parents’ opposition. Then, the husband joined his daughters, but the wife continued to object. Over the years, however, she noticed the good effect of Bible principles on her family. Her daughters took good care of her, and her husband became much milder. Such changes moved the woman to look into the Bible for herself, and it had the same good effect on her. This elderly lady repeatedly said: “We became a real married couple.”
22, 23. How does the Bible help people of all national backgrounds to find happiness in their family life?
22 These individuals are among the great many who have learned the secret of family happiness. They have accepted the Bible’s counsel and have applied it. True, they live in the same violent, immoral, economically stressed world as everyone else. Moreover, they are imperfect, but they find happiness in trying to do the will of the Originator of the family arrangement. As the Bible says, Jehovah God is “the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk.”—Isaiah 48:17.
23 Although the Bible was completed almost two thousand years ago, its counsel is truly up-to-date. Further, it was written for all people. The Bible is not an American or a Western book. Jehovah “made out of one man every nation of men,” and He knows the makeup of humans everywhere. (Acts 17:26) Bible principles work for everyone. If you apply them, you too will come to know the secret of family happiness.