Children a able to pray if they are taught to talk with God. They have their needs and issues as well. Let us teach them to pray.
Tag Archives: CHRISTIANITY
THIS KNOWLEDGE IS IMPORTANT
If one wants to destroy your future in a smart way, he should just erase your identity from your memory. That is enough to deprive you of all your rights and benefits which includes your inheritance. That is what the devil did and is still doing to Christians. The devil causes Christians to doubt their identity in Christ. It is like a terrible sin to confess or speak out in public that they are like Christ. Yet it is very clear in the scriptures that they are like him in this world. Not in the world to come only, but starting with the life they live today. Some children do look like their parents and some don’t. Christians should know that they look exactly like God their father and as well as Jesus Christ their brother. They should be so proud of the fact that they are not only called the children of God, but that they also resemble their father. It is because of God’s love for them, his children to be that way. They are the loved children “begotten” of love and not through parental mistaken action. Check on this scripture:
1 John 4:17 (amp) in this [union and communion with him] love is brought to completion and attains perfection with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgement [with assurance and boldness to face him], because as he is, so are we in this world.
Christians must have this awareness or consciousness in them, that they are his children.
No need to take this as top secret, something to be known by a certain class of people only.
Christians must be proud of their identity. They should not deny their spiritual nature because of any kind of pressure. It’s not an ordinary thing, be called a child of God. It’s the best thing ever one can have in life which no one can take away from them. Those who have this grace bestowed on them are highly privileged because some died physically without obtaining it. It is the unmerited favour of God upon their lives. There is no college which can qualify people to become children of God. Neither is there any royalty rights, race, class or creed to help or place someone into the family of God (John 1:13).
Check on this scripture
1 John 3:1 (MSG) What marvellous love the father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called God’s children! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to.
AS HE IS – SO I AM IN THIS WORLD.
I am not waiting to be like him in eternity.
He has made me his child from the day I received Christ.
He calls me his son from that very day.
His love made me his real son in this world.
And I am so motivated to have that understanding.
YEEEEEEEESSSSSSSS!!!!!!!! I BELIEVE
The Word declares in Romans 4:19-20 that
Abraham did not consider the circumstances and
“staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief
but was strong in faith, giving glory to God”.
I do not waver in unbelief but strongly hold on to God’s promise,
glorifying Him. My faith is producing results.
I radically hold on to God’s Word and I do not waver.
He is dependable and faithful to keep His Word.
IS THERE LIFE WITHOUT FAITH?
We all understand that there is natural faith and spiritual faith.
Natural faith depends on the things that we feel, see, touch, smell or taste. From these five senses comes the trust which makes us make decisions and take a move.
Spiritual faith comes by hearing the word of God.
Romans 10:17 New International Version (NIV)
Consequently, FAITH COMES from HEARING the message, and the message is heard through the WORD about CHRIST.
When God wanted people to communicate and live by faith just like himself. He had to choose someone to teach how to leave by faith. He had to teach Abraham how to walk by faith by calling him out his comfort zone. Very hard thing to do and very difficult to exercise.
Genesis 12:1-6 The Message (MSG)
God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you. I’ll make you a great nation and bless you. I’ll make you famous; you’ll be a blessing. I’ll bless those who bless you; those who curse you I’ll curse. All the families of the Earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram left just as God said, and Lot left with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot with him, along with all the possessions and people they had gotten in Haran, and set out for the land of Canaan and arrived safe and sound.
Just responding to the call of God was enough to approve Abraham as the father of faith.
Galatians 3:5-9 Amplified Bible (AMP)
5 Then does He Who supplies you with His marvelous [Holy] Spirit and works powerfully and miraculously among you do so on [the grounds of your doing] what the Law demands, or because of your believing in and adhering to and trusting in and relying on the message that you heard? 6 Thus Abraham believed in and adhered to and trusted in and relied on God, and it was reckoned and placed to his account and credited as righteousness (as conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action). 7 Know and understand that it is [really] the people [who live] by faith who are [the true] sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify (declare righteous, put in right standing with Himself) the Gentiles in consequence of faith, proclaimed the Gospel [foretelling the glad tidings of a Savior long beforehand] to Abraham in the promise, saying, In you shall all the nations [of the earth] be blessed. 9 So then, those who are people of faith are blessed and made happy and favored by God [as partners in fellowship] with the believing and trusting Abraham.
The lectures faith were not finished but continued everyday in everything he was doing. The lectures of faith came first before the lectures of Law. Life of faith became the proper way of life required before the introduction of law. Law was just a school master and never cancelled the life of faith.
WE WALK BY FAITH, WE TALK FAITH ISSUES, WE SING FAITH SONGS and WE MEDITATE ON FAITH ISSUES.
Look at the proud; his soul is not straight or right within him, but the [rigidly] just and the [uncompromisingly] righteous man shall live by his faith and in his faithfulness.Romans 1:17
For in the Gospel a righteousness which God ascribes is revealed, both springing from faith and leading to faith [disclosed through the way of faith that arouses to more faith]. As it is written, The man who through faith is just and upright shall live and shall live by faith.2 Corinthians 5:7
For we walk by faith [we regulate our lives and conduct ourselves by our conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, with trust and holy fervor; thus we walk] not by sight or appearance.Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN LIVE BY THE STANDARDS SET BY THEIR FATHER – “STANDARDS OF FAITH”
Know and understand that it is [really] the people [who live] by faith who are [the true] sons of Abraham.Galatians 3:11,12
11 Now it is evident that no person is justified (declared righteous and brought into right standing with God) through the Law, for the Scripture says, The man in right standing with God [the just, the righteous] shall live by and out of faith and he who through and by faith is declared righteous and in right standing with God shall live.
12 But the Law does not rest on faith [does not require faith, has nothing to do with faith], for it itself says, He who does them [the things prescribed by the Law] shall live by them [not by faith].
LET US NOT DRAW BACKWARDS WHEN IT COMES TO FAITH
But the just shall live by faith [My righteous servant shall live by his conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, and holy fervor born of faith and conjoined with it]; and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in him.
NOTHING TO BE PROUD OF REALLY:
HE TOUCHED MANY INCLUDING SOMEONE LIKE ME
Not because of intelligence, spiritual gift, capability, ability, proficiency, dexterity, faculty, talent, or by birth, race, tribe, tradition nor culture.
“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus”. (1 Timothy 1:14 NIV)
ENRICH AND DEEPEN PRAYER LIFE
No matter what our age, years of Christian service or maturity in ministry, we will always need to keep growing in the exercise and discipline of prayer. As you fulfill God’s call on your life, I want to encourage you to be a person committed to powerful prayer.
The apostle Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21 comes to mind when I think of excellence in prayer. This gives several insights into the preface, posture and petitions of powerful prayer.
Paul starts by saying, “For this reason I kneel” (Eph. 3:14, emphasis mine). What reason? What is the reason that drives him to prayer? It is a phrase he also uses in 3:1, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus … ” In some way, Paul connects the reason—the preface—to the entire prayer that follows. Paul joins that “reason” to the word mystery that occurs four times in Ephesians 3 (vv. 3, 4, 6, 9). The “mystery” is that the church—composed of Gentiles and Jews—would make known the many-sided, multifaceted wisdom of God to rulers and authorities in heavenly realms. In plain speech, Paul is saying, “Before I launch into my prayer, let me tell you what stands behind it. The church has God’s name on it. We are the assembly of God. The church is His pride and joy.”
In Jewish prayer, standing is the normal posture (Matt. 6:5; Luke 18:11, 13). Kneeling, however, is the more intense form of prayer. Paul says, “For this reason I kneel” (Eph. 3:14, emphasis mine). This is a tip-off to the fervency of effective prayer.
One of the early church fathers put it this way: “By kneeling we demonstrate the full form of prayer. We ought not merely to incline our minds to prayer but also our bodies. We do well to lower our bodies lest we create an impression of elevation or an appearance of pride.”
What would happen in our lives, homes and churches if we fell on our knees and prayed more earnestly—going beyond the rote and routine of prayer to the fervency of prayer?
The posture and preface to Paul’s prayer leads us into the intensity of three petitions he brings that we can summarize in three words: grip, grasp and grow.
1. Grip. Over the years, my daily prayer list has grown to more than 250 people. I laid Paul’s prayer over my list and realized how spot-on his prayer is because so many people on my list, including myself, need our grip strengthened with power through the Spirit.
2. Grasp. Paul not only prays for us to get a strong grip. He prays that we will also get a great grasp. Years before Paul wrote this Ephesian letter from a prison in Rome, he had planted and pastored the church in Ephesus for two and a half years. During that time, he sent letters west to the Corinthian church that was beset with all types of problems and pride. He told them in 1 Corinthians 13 what was missing in their community life. They were not rooted and grounded in love.
This is always a sobering word to the Pentecostal and charismatic church because in our desire for the restoration and presence of the charismata, we may be tempted to build on the gifts rather than the Giver, on the sensational above the ethical or moral—on success and numbers rather than love. When we are rooted and grounded in love, then we can grasp the breadth, duration and extremity of His love.
3. Grow. Paul knew that being filled with the Spirit was not just a one-time “I’ve got it” experience. When you read the last two and a half chapters of Ephesians, you can see that these Spirit-baptized believers were still being pushed to grow.
No matter what our age, years of Christian service or maturity in ministry, we will always need to keep growing, because even if we are filled now, we are not yet filled with all the fullness of God. But that is not all. He ends with, “[He] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20). Great praying leads to great power—“He is able,” Paul says. And great power leads to great praise: “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (v. 21).
The grip. The grasp. The grow. They all lead to immeasurably more. God is infinite and capable of giving more, and we are expansible and capable of receiving more.
Do you want to display the glory of the Father? Become a person who prays powerful prayers.
Children Learn What They Live
As I was cleaning out my desk draw, I came across a poem written by an anonymous writer. I like this poem because it speaks about how children should be raised in order to develop a character that is acceptable to our society.
Children Learn What They Live
If children live with criticism,
They learn to condemn.
They learn to fight. If children live with ridicule,
They learn to be shy. If children live with shame,
They learn to feel guilt. If children live with tolerance,
They learn to be patient. If children live with encouragement,
They learn confidence. If children live with praise,
They learn to appreciate. If children live with fairness,
They learn justice. If children live with security,
They learn faith. If children live with approval,
They learn to like themselves. If children live with acceptance and friendship
They learn to find love in the world.
“THE REAL ONE” or “ONE OF THOSE?”
Can we be shaken or be moved by the same news over and over. We have heard about the Jesus or Jesus Christ re-incarnation for so many times since the ascension of the real Jesus Christ. This time he is in Brazil and what do you think about this kind of a manifestation?
I don’t mean to criticize or degrade, but I’m just concerned about the rising of such things which are reoccurring in our generation.
Could he be the REAL ONE or ONE OF THOSE who claimed to be Jesus? Let us just look at some of the examples of “ONE OF THOSE” who once claimed to be Jesus.
(The information below was taken from the Wikipedia website of people who claimed to be Jesus).
• John Nichols Thom (1799–1838), a Cornish tax rebel who claimed to be the “saviour of the world” and the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and his body temple of the Holy Ghost in 1834. He was killed by British soldiers at the Battle of Bossenden Wood, on May 31, 1838 in Kent, England.
• Arnold Potter (1804–1872), Schismatic Latter Day Saint leader; he claimed the spirit of Jesus Christ entered into his body and he became “Potter Christ” Son of the living God. He died in an attempt to “ascend into heaven” by jumping off a cliff. His body was later retrieved and buried by his followers.
• William W. Davies (1833–1906), leader of a Latter Day Saint schismatic group called the Kingdom of Heaven located in Walla Walla, Washington from 1867 to 1881. He taught his followers that he was the archangel Michael, who had previously lived as the biblical Adam, Abraham, and David. When his son Arthur was born on February 11, 1868, Davies declared that the infant was the reincarnated Jesus Christ. When Davies’s second son, David, was born in 1869, he was declared to be God the Father.
The are so many of “ONE OF THOSE” listed on the Wikipedia and other website. There is so much confusion in the universe especially these days about the re-incarnation of Christ.
Jesus himself gave a great warning to his disciples about such issues. The scriptures which Matthew wrote on the reports he witnessed and head from Jesus’ own words in Jerusalem before his crucifixion should help us understand what is going on now.
Matthew 24:4-6 (AMP)
Jesus answered them, Be careful that no one misleads you [deceiving you and leading you into error]. For many will come in (on the strength of) My name [[a]appropriating the name which belongs to Me], saying, I am the Christ (the Messiah), and they will lead many astray.
…….; see that you are not frightened or troubled, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.
He gave a strong warning on deception of this kind.
And many false prophets will rise up and deceive and lead many into error.
He also made it clear that the end of the world or the church age is not marked by these things but these were to happen before his return.
It would have been better if they were giving themselves other names and claim to be other messiahs or other great prophets like Jesus Christ. If they want to be like him (Jesus Christ) the judgement bar will be raised so high to be level of the real Jesus and their performance will rock far below. The highest level of the judgement bar is resurrection. “ONE OF THESE” have always failed to reach the bar when it comes to resurrection. “THE REAL ONE” demonstrated by resurrection.
Matthew 27:51-54 (NIVUK)
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[a] went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’
The reality was recorded by those who saw him dead, buried and resurrected.
Acts 2:29-36 (MSG)
“Dear friends, let me be completely frank with you. Our ancestor David is dead and buried—his tomb is in plain sight today. But being also a prophet and knowing that God had solemnly sworn that a descendant of his would rule his kingdom, seeing far ahead, he talked of the resurrection of the Messiah—‘no trip to Hades, no stench of death.’ This Jesus, God raised up. And every one of us here is a witness to it. Then, raised to the heights at the right hand of God and receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he poured out the Spirit he had just received. That is what you see and hear. For David himself did not ascend to heaven, but he did say,
God said to my Master, “Sit at my right hand. Until I make your enemies a stool for resting your feet.” “All Israel, then, know this: There’s no longer room for doubt—God made him Master and Messiah, this Jesus whom you killed on a cross.”
John 20:24-28 (MSG)
But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.” But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.” Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”
Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”
Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”
Their writings are quiet clear that they even had time to talk to him and eat with him as well.
John 21:1-14 (MSG)
After this, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.” The rest of them replied, “We’re going with you.” They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the beach, but they didn’t recognize him. Jesus spoke to them: “Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?” They answered, “No.” He said, “Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens.” They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in. ….. Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Master!” ……. When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it. …….. Jesus said, “Breakfast is ready.” Not one of the disciples dared ask, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Master.
Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus had shown himself alive to the disciples since being raised from the dead.
All those who claimed to be “THE REAL ONES” came and died but did not resurrect.
“ONE OF THOSE” are found wanting when it comes to this performance of resurrection. This is the reason why they will be “ONE OF THOSE” instead of “THE REAL ONE.”
“THE REAL ONE’s” remains of his body are not in the grave any more but rose up fully bodied from the dead.
Revelation 1:17-19 Complete Jewish Bible
When I saw him, I fell down at his feet like a dead man. He placed his right hand upon me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last, the Living One. I was dead, but look! — I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys to Death and Sh’ol. So write down what you see, both what is now, and what will happen afterwards.
“THE REAL ONE” is yet to come to take his church as he promised. According to his promises, he rose from the dead so we are so sure that he will come and take his church because he is faithful when it comes to his promises.
IMPORTANCE OF EMPATHY AND LISTENING IN PASTORAL COUNSELLING PT1
By Pastor Elasto Marume
The importance of empathy and listening in the pastoral counselling is the missing jewel in every discussion. These are like the backbone of professional counselling for spiritual therapy. They are taken as the good mixture of ingredients in a well prepared meal which makes all the taste buds to respond naturally. These two are the first and most needed keys to the saint’s inner treasure box of life. Somewhere in the body of a person, is the invisible inner box where the feelings and emotions are hidden. Michael Lawson (1989, p.18) says, ”We all know that thoughts and feelings are available for immediate use and for future reference, carefully filed and sorted by our brain’s intricate storage and retrieval mechanism”.
These two (empathy and listening) are like the master key to one’s door of life which the pastor should use to be allowed to enter into and help from within. The most important thing to be understood is that there can never be better empathetic practiced without the listening aspect. Also listening will never be effective without empathy. They are interwoven. It is like a hand in the glove. I need to define the two first of all, in order for us to get along in the same level of understanding.
Empathy is the understanding of emotional feelings of others. It is the mirroring of feelings of someone’s suffering. Gill Hasson (2012: p.105) says, “Mirror neurons are distinctive brain cells that fire, not just when you perform an action, but also when you see or hear others carry out an action, too”.
It is the identifying as well as the experiencing of the emotional feelings of other people. Michael Jacobs (1988: p.29) defines it as; “The ability to empathize, or to identify with how others might be feeling…. Understanding intuitively how the others might be feeling. Empathy, or identification, means the ability to put oneself in someone’s shoes, to get into their skin, to experience what they might be experiencing”. Dennis Brown and Jonathan Pedder (1991: p.68) say, “It is known to be the capacity to empathize or putting oneself intuitively in another’s shoes and identifying with him in his predicament”.
It is believed that empathy and sensitivity come hand in hand. It’s not like you can be empathetic and insensitive to a person at the same time. It is a known fact that people who show empathy toward others as they tell their stories are known to be better parents, spouses, nurses, doctors, managers, community leaders, church leaders, and/or other leaders of any kind of institution or organization. Deeper levels of rapport and trust are created and maintained through the use of empathetic rhythms in all walks of life. Human kind cannot afford to live without it because of emotional turbulences caused by different things in life. There will be no joy, peace, harmony, as well emotional healing if there is no empathy in human lives. Like a pain killer to the sufferer when it’s properly applied, so is empathy for the one with emotional sickness. Without it, we can feel lonely within any relationship. Empathy builds and heals relationships.
It is a skill applied like playing a piano. (Gill Hasson 2012: p.103) says, “Strike the right emotional cord: develop empathy”. He continues to define its importance by saying, “The key skill that you need to be one of these emotional intelligent people is empathy. Having empathy simply means that you are willing to try and understand someone’s situation, their point of view, their thoughts and feelings. You interested in one’s situation and readiness to respond to their needs and feelings without dismissing them and judging them”. A skilled pastor uses this great tool (empathy) to draw the meanings of emotions and feelings from the Christian’s facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice, changing of sitting positions eye contacts and so forth. “They can be described as part of human personalities” David Bick, 1997, p.49). The same tool (empathy) will open doors to the art of questioning. Good questions will clarify the facts and encourage rich dialogue. There are times when conversation just goes dead, the same tool (empathy) will help to restart the dialogue as well as to encourage reflection. “The good news is that research shows that empathy can be learned” (Quote by David F. Swink).
Misunderstanding of emotions and feelings can lead to unnecessary conflict situations in counselling sessions. It helps pastors to understand and treat Christians, according to their emotional state. Without it, there will be a problem of asking wrong questions because of not understanding the feelings of the Christian. This will interrupt the flow and causing the Christian to lose focus.
In some cases the pastor needs to have an understanding of some events which took place some time ago may be in the childhood age. The Christian doesn’t see them as important factors as they tell their story. In other cases he or she just doesn’t know how much the past has contributed to the situation. “The trouble is, the greater the trauma, the more difficult that becomes” Michael Lawson (1989, p.63). Empathy is the only thing which can pick up those hidden feelings which needs to be addressed. The story of Elizabeth illustrates more of some of the things which reflect life behind the walls of silence. In the book called Psychodynamic Perspectives Of Abuse (2000: p.165), we read; “Through attunement she began to trust therapeutic relationship. That was the time she was able to identify her own feelings”.
Attunement goes beyond empathy, (“Erskine, 1998: p.236” Class notes). When applied to one’s situation, it brings the sense of belonging. Gill Hasson, (2012: p.53) says, “It cause client to feel emotionally connected to others – to feel that you are acknowledged, accepted, included and that you belong. To feel that you are understood, valued and respected. To feel liked, loved, admired, appreciated, approved of, cared for and needed. To feel trusted, supported and, when appropriate forgiven”. Attunement will also help the pastor to know when to speak, when to ask a question, when to be quiet and allow the Christian to be quiet as well. Pauses and silence are also helpful to both the Christian and the pastor.
Empathy is like a compass, it directs the pastor into the unknown world of the Christian. It helps the pastor to identify and understand feelings expressed through both vocal and body messages. Other Christians don’t know how to say out what they think or feel. This is the part which empathy plays a big role. Empathetically like a compass, the pastor will be able to read between the lines as the Christian gives the clues through the voice or actions. Richard Nelson-Jones (2003: p.58), says, sometimes clients say “I feel” when they mean “I think”.
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”
Having poor empathy skills can lead to serious consequences. It can affect the economy of the nation. Companies, organizations and institutions can suffer from loss and lack of growth because of a lack of empathy. Daniel Goleman and other emotional intelligence and workplace competency researchers have consistently identified empathy as a core component of emotional intelligence and a powerful predictor of success in many professions. Lack of empathy can cause companies to make catastrophic blunders that alienate their customers or employees and it can even incite violence.
WANT A HAPPY FAMILY?
i was so touched by this inspiration given to Bruce feiler in his book “The secrets of happy families. I RECOMMEND this book to those who want to improve or increase the happiness in their families.
By Bruce Feiler. Adapted from The Secrets of Happy Families.
I hit the breaking point as a parent a few years ago. It was the week of my extended family’s annual gathering in August. My parents were aging; my wife and I were straining under the chaos of young children; my sister was bracing to prepare her preteens for bullying, sex and cyberstalking.
Sure enough, one night all the tensions boiled over. At dinner, I noticed my nephew texting under the table. I knew I shouldn’t say anything, but I asked him to stop.
Ka-boom! My sister snapped at me to not discipline her child. My dad pointed out that my girls were the ones balancing spoons on their noses. My mom said none of the grandchildren had manners. Within minutes, everyone had fled to separate corners.
That night I began to wonder: What is the secret sauce that holds a family together? What are the ingredients that make some families effective, resilient, happy?
I spent the last few years trying to answer that question, meeting families, scholars and experts ranging from peace negotiators to online game designers to Warren Buffett’s bankers. After a while, a surprising theme emerged. The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.
I first heard this idea from Marshall Duke, a colorful psychologist at Emory University. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Duke and colleague Robyn Fivush developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions. Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?
Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush asked those questions of four dozen families then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests. Their overwhelming conclusion: The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.
“We were blown away,” Dr. Duke said.
Why does knowing where your grandmother went to school help a child overcome something as minor as a skinned knee or as major as a terrorist attack?
“The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,” Dr. Duke said.
Psychologists have found that every family has a unifying narrative, he explained, and those narratives take one of three shapes.
First, the ascending family narrative: “Son, when we came to this country, we had nothing. Our family worked. We opened a store. Your grandfather went to high school. Your father went to college. And now you. …”
Second is the descending narrative: “Sweetheart, we used to have it all. Then we lost everything.”
“The most healthful narrative,” Dr. Duke continued, “is the third one. It’s called the oscillating family narrative: ‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’ ”
Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.
Religious traditions do a particularly good job at conveying this message. Many Bible stories including overcoming suffering and bouncing back from difficult times. One reason religious communities are so tight is that they understand one of their roles is to help people who are experiencing pain and hardship.
Dr. Duke recommends that parents convey similar messages to their children. Any number of occasions work to convey this feeling: holidays, vacations, big family get-togethers, even a ride to the mall. The hokier the family’s tradition, he said, the more likely it is to be passed down. “These traditions become part of your family,” he said.
The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.
This piece is adapted from The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Tell Your Family History, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, & Much More, by Bruce Feiler, which has just been published. Mr. Feiler writes a column on contemporary families for the New York Times and is the author of six consecutive New York Times bestsellers. For more information, please visitwww.brucefeiler.com.
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