You Need to Need Each Other

In our Five Minute Fatherhood Facebook group, if you guys are not in there, check it out on Facebook. Just type in Five Minute Fatherhood. Nathan, who’s really active in our community, he kind of called out a moment in the Dads Building Teams episode Jeff and I recently did where we talked about, and this is the quote he pulled out, “To create really powerful family bonds is to need, to need each other.” And he put on there, that’s a one-liner antithesis of American culture. In other words, currently, the goal of a family is to not need each other. And one of the biggest problems with how to create a family team is that you need to need each other. And I was just thinking about this, wanted to get your take on this, Jeff. Families need to have identified an enemy to go after. 

And, historically, the enemy was always nature. So usually what happened in most cultures is that families were always in danger of starving to death, of dying of diseases, of bandits coming in, and so there was an immediate threat that created very, very strong family bonds, because they needed each other. They knew that they could not survive on their own. But what do we do when we don’t feel like we need each other? That’s kind of the problem currently in our culture. And it’s ironic when I think about what’s going on with COVID that, in the board game world, the only board game I’ve ever heard of that’s popular that people talk about, where our family plays not against each other, but with each other against the game, is this game called pandemic? Have you ever played that game, Jeff? You ever seen that? 

Yes, I forgot about that game, yeah, yeah. 

Yeah, we played it a bunch of times as a family. There’s not a lot of games like this. Most games you’re competing against each other, but I just thought, oh, that’s kind of ironic that probably the most popular board game in the world over the last 10 years, where you play as a team against the game, is pandemic. And so we just experienced for a couple of months, basically we sort of fell into this dynamic for a little bit, which was all of a sudden there was an enemy bigger than one another. We needed each other and we were sort of playing against the game, or we were trying to figure out as a family team, how do we survive in the midst of a pandemic? 

Now of course, as soon as that lifts, we all go back to sort of competing with one another and that can be a problem. But what I would recommend is that dads think about how are you going to talk to your family, but what’s the enemy that you’re competing against? What is the compelling reason why your family needs to work together, as opposed to just individually, and an element you must have is sort of a common enemy, right? What are your thoughts about that? 

I actually want to turn it back to you and ask, what do you think is the wrong misplaced enemy. And by the way, I don’t know if you could even hear me. I was typing furiously while you’re talking, because this is actually … I was like, oh, this is good stuff I want to put in my next book. So I was taking notes real quick. So I don’t know if Matt will keep in those clicky noises or not when he edits it. Shout out to Matt, by the way, who edits hundreds of our podcasts and videos, and Matt just does everything. And then Kelsey, who facilitates all of it. So you two are amazing. What was I saying though? 

Oh yeah. I just agree. I think that’s such a powerful thing that there was more natural born enemies that a family could turn outward towards. I was taking notes when you were talking and I literally said, but because we are bored and have nothing better to do, our enemy is now each other, you know what I mean? We almost make each other the enemy, like it’s now a competition between resources of what the dad can get, what the mom can get, what the kid can get. And that’s even the conversation you see on society with how we treat the question in regards to the feminist discussion, and some of these other discussions of dad going out to work, not to work, which I’m actually on board for, in regards to what we’ve talked about on the holistic way, in regards to like enabling moms who are incredible leaders and want to own businesses, and want to do all these different types of things.

But sometimes embedded in that conversation is a fragmentation of the family unit, of like a survival of the fittest, of like, it’s not actually the mom and dad and the kids working together, it’s actually just who gets to win their version. And it shouldn’t be the dad, because it’s default to dad in America and it shouldn’t be the mom. And that’s like the new maybe story that’s getting pushed right now, and certainly no one ever actually advocates for the kids in that scenario, which is another interesting conversation. Anyways, to close though, would you say it’s each other or would you say there is another enemy that tends to kind of be the American version or whatever, you know? Does that make sense?

Yeah. Well, so we talked about the problem with the assumption of stability in a different podcast, which is when you don’t think there’s an enemy that can take your family out, you tend to compete for scarce resources against each other. That’s what tends to happen. And that’s why there’s so much sibling rivalry. And so you have to present as a father, an enemy that you are trying to conquer or really work against as a family. Now I think in the Christian world, the way we think about that is that it’s really the kingdom of God versus the kingdom of darkness. The problem with the world is that the gospel is trying to reach people that are lost and that desperately need to understand and be brought into the kingdom of God. And there is another kingdom that’s not flesh and blood that’s out there trying to war against our families. 

And so, man, if you have the advantage of overcoming nature and you have the assumption of stability in your life, because you’re not worried you’re going to starve, you’re not worried you’re going to die of a disease. The answer, then, isn’t to fall back to individualism, it’s to go after a bigger enemy, a bigger challenge, which is how is our family going to go on mission? This is why you guys, we really think it’s important that in a culture where there’s a lot of stability, families have to craft a family mission statement, because in the past, the family mission statement wrote itself. It was, let’s not starve, let’s not be killed by the warring tribe, let’s try to not die. That was the family mission statement. 

Now, if you’re not worried that you’re going to die next week, you have to write that mission statement. Because if you don’t, you will not have an enemy and if you don’t have an enemy, then you’re going to turn on each other. That’s the way human nature works. You go to individualism, individuals begin to fight over scarce resources in the family, and the family starts to fall apart. So, that’s kind of what … Going back to the original quote that Nathan called out from the podcast to create really powerful family bonds is to need to need each other. You need to need each other. And that means there’s got to be a sense that I’m better off cooperating with my brother, sister, mom, dad, grandpa, grandma, son, daughter, I’m better off, we’re better off working together because the enemy that we’re fighting is powerful enough to be worthy of the collective action of the entire family. And if you don’t have an enemy that is big enough to be worthy or to need the collective action of the family, then the family is going to start to break down into its individual parts.

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