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Love is Taught in the Family

Jeremy:
There is a tome of a book that Jeff and I both like. It’s called Family Civilization written by Carle Zimmerman, who is a sociologist, and he-

Jeff:
From like the 1940s.

Jeremy:
Yeah. It’s an old book but it’s the book about all the different kinds of families that have existed throughout history. He said something that I don’t know if I’ve ever heard before, and I even tried to find this quote and I couldn’t find it, so I wanted to tease this out because I’m also really getting into some more… Trying to understand Greek philosophy, especially when it comes to family better. He says here, “Aristotle’s dictum that if children did not love their parents and family members, they would love no one but themselves.” and this is his quote. And he goes on to say, “In the absence of strong external forces, no human society could long exist without the attachments basic to human society that all arise and take their orientation from the human family.”

Zimmerman is saying that Aristotle was saying that if a child doesn’t learn to love their mom and dad, then they will only love themselves. I found this really, really interesting because our culture actually thinks that if a child only learns to love themselves, then you’ve won as parents. The Greeks were really worried about this problem and we really are… It’s interesting to read the studies. I’ve read several sociologists that really have made the point that we’re the first civilization in history that’s ever even come up with this theory that to love yourself is ultimate, and that that’s the pathway to loving others. That’s not the way the Bible talks about it. That’s not the way that you read about it in other societies.

The way that most societies, and with the way Aristotle is making this point, is that when you’re in the family, when you learn to love your family members, particularly the parents he’s describing, but I think also the siblings, what that does is it helps you transcend self-love and that self-love is kind of endemic to just being human, but loving others is not. Loving others requires you to oftentimes have experienced a family environment in which you were trained and inspired to love, in particularly, your parents. I thought this was interesting. I’m curious, Jeff, how you think about this tension in a society that really does champion self-love as the ultimate.

Jeff:
Well, I think that’s why… Not to overstate the problem, but I think almost every single problem in society today can be traced back to that, the individualized selfishness that corrodes and collapses in on itself with no institutions left, with no sacrifice, with no commitment to the other or a group or an organization or a team, for this exact reason. I love how he put it at the end, “The attachments basic to human society all arise and take their orientation from the human family.” Meaning, it’s the first training ground. You’re going to be working with teams your entire life. You’re going to be in community your entire life, unless you just live on an island, which no one does, unless you’re Tom Hanks in that one movie, and even then he obviously didn’t want to be there.

Jeremy:
He had a volleyball.

Jeff:
Yes, exactly. Wilson. Touché. Touché. Thankfully, Tom Hanks maybe had a loving good family so he knew how to love Wilson.

Jeremy:
That’s right.

Jeff:
It’s everywhere and you see it everywhere. Yeah, I think just make sure that… I think it’s a really good framework or indictment, or also just encouragement for fathers, parents listening, of make sure you’re raising and training kids to actually love themselves in the truest, most pure sense of that word, but even like someone like… Not Carle Zimmerman, but who’s the spiritual guy like… David Bennett talks about at some level, the Christian version of loving yourself is intertwined with loving Jesus. There’s a weird symbiotic relationship where the more your eyes are taken away from yourself and put on Jesus, the more that you begin to see yourself through the lens of Jesus, which is a form of the pure self-love that is like that all of us have distorted and wanted it.

I love that framework that he talks about, that you have to take your eyes off yourself, point them towards Jesus, and then what it does is it actually then bounces back towards you in a true reflection of yourself, essentially. Yeah, but I love that, and family is the place where you get to workshop that first, for lack of a better term, so I think it’s highly, highly necessary.

Jeremy:
Yeah, and I think what this also does is it gives you permission as a father to be concerned when your child isn’t demonstrating love towards you, not in a weird way, right? It’s okay for you to work to inspire your children to love you, not to become a selfish tyrant over their emotions, but to prepare them to love others and transcend self-love in the same way that hopefully you, as the father, are translating your love for yourself and loving your wife and your kids. It’s the constant sort of cycle of self-sacrificing love for one another that is the training ground for really learning all the one another’s that the Bible talks about. About how we’re supposed to love each other and support one another and encourage one another and forgive one another, but just to see that there is going to be a tension particularly now that we’re going to all experience between motivating self-love in our kids and motivating our kids to transcend self-love, which I think is more basic to what they’re going to need in the future.

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