I hate it when something I love gets hijacked and taken hostage for political reasons.

I love language and in this (and every) political season, it seems language loses it’s complex and interesting meaning and gets simplified for political gain. I want to rescue a phrase that I think has been hijacked. The phrase is “traditional family values.”

Now I come from a family that might be categorized as traditional (although I always thought everyone else’s families were more normal).  Mother, father and five children. We lived in a small town and played little league and the piano. We went to church, sometimes 2 or 3 times on Sunday and again on Wednesday.

And these are the traditional family values I learned: kindness; love; sharing; generosity; forgiveness; welcoming strangers; keeping promises; conserving resources; recycling clothes, paper and anything else that could be used till it unraveled; telling the truth; doing justice; showing mercy; being humble; making commitments; loving in sickness and health; caring for orphans and widows; equal opportunity; open mindedness.

And I know people who are in families that some in the political world would not call traditional (although statistics show that there are more of these kinds of families now than the kind I grew up in). These are families with a single parent; with two fathers; with two mothers; no parents; children raised in extended families with aunts and uncles; grandparents raising grandchildren; one biological parent and one step-parent; adopted parents and children, etc. And the values I learned are being taught in these families. These social groupings are the laboratories where we learn how to live with others and how to create complex and caring societies.

So, I want the phrase back. In my family, the values I learned create a compassionate and merciful society for all. They help form a generous place of grace and equality.  I want these values in the society for my children and grandchildren—and for your children and grandchildren (whoever you are and however you structure your family.)


Next to my desk is a picture of Deb that I love. She is celebrating life. Her face is raised to the sun, her arms outstretched, receiving the sheer delight of being alive. Next to the picture she posted this statement: "Defining oneself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of life's most difficult challenges."

I have been thinking about this lately. I have been feeling things that I don't like. I have allowed the actions of others control my feelings and my thoughts. I have sometimes lost sleep. Sometimes the actions of others become so powerful inside my mind that I am unable to be what I want to be. Defining oneself is indeed one of life's most difficult challenges.

As I have wrestled with these things, I remember years of leading congregations. When there are several hundred people in a community there are multiple occasions when people's actions would plant themselves right in the middle of my consciousness. I had to continue to work and do ministry while my feelings about their actions kept distracting me. I remember working consciously to remember that I am in charge of myself. I did not want others to define me.  I did not want other's actions to determine my action. I want to act out of my own values, not the values of others.

So, as I took my thoughts and my feelings for a hike today, I decided that I will take control of my own response to what is happening around me.  I am impacted by what others do and say, and I have feelings of anger and pain. But, I will work to treat others as I want to be treated. That way I can live with myself. I will be who I decide I want to be.