Should we treat our family different from strangers? Any exceptions?

The question can be generalized so that it is a new question: “Do we treat our family as strangers or do we apply a greater amount of forbearance to them that we would not for others? If yes or no, then why? Should any of these attitudes change with experience?”

Stranger danger.

The bible is full of instructions towards families that are unique from other relationships. We do not treat them as strangers, or even other neighbours, but hold a special relationship and different responsibilities.

We are to honour of parents.

Parents are to instruct and love their children.

Spouses are to love each other as Christ loves the Church.

We are to provide for the needs of our household. To fail to do so is sinful, and we have this responsibility hierarchically over our responsibility to give to others.

Okay, but what other actions does “honor” and “love” entail, which go above how we usually love and honor strangers? And aren’t these actions themselves variable? For instance, if I love my wife, and realize that she is doesn’t care about me at all, then should I still love her (this is all hypothetical; I don’t have a wife)?

Reading the catechism will give a good understanding of how we honour and love our parents, and how we treat our children and spouse.

If your spouse does not “care about” you, you are still to love them, the way Christ loves us even when we do not care about him. Noting that the word “love” is an English word that does not distinuish adequately between the different types of love that we can have, so the love you may have for your spouse needs to be much more than merely being “in love”.

I’ve read it twice before, and actually I don’t think it says anything truly specific that addresses my question. I just want to know, what different specific actions are specific to family members and not to strangers. I suppose kissing and hugging and its variations but sometimes family members might not get along and so they refuse to hug or kiss. Is that a sin? I suppose that would be my two questions.

I understand that to love can run the gamut from simple “well-wishing” to “passionate desire” so that verb is actually more confusing to use in this instance; I mean, if we are to love our partners as Jesus loved us, then don’t we become more or less “well-wishers” and so what would make our love different than the stranger’s?

I wouldn’t loan my car to a stranger. Me being a petite female, I wouldn’t stop on the side of the road and help a stranger with their car. I would if they were family or a friend. I wouldn’t let a stranger drink or eat off my plate. I wouldn’t let a stranger into my home. Some things just aren’t safe to do.

I know people who don’t hug or kiss their family, they aren’t “touchy feely.” I don’t see that as sinful. They aren’t comfortable. I think it would be sinful to force a person to so something they aren’t comfortable doing.

To be honest I believe it depends on the family and the situation. For some people their family is just as much as strangers as strangers are. Prudence is the key and I don’t believe your going to get a standard that is going to fit all situations. Pray to God for guidance and supernatural charity. This way you are praying to love everyone correctly for the love of God.

We absolutely need to offer love and honor and respect to our family in a way that is different and more intimate than the way we love our neighbors.

I can think of many examples of this:

Adult children are no longer required to obey their parents, but should seek their advice and counsel. If a man is considering marriage, he could honor his parents by listening to their reasonable concerns about his girlfriend. He doesn’t need to get their permission for marriage, of course, but he should recognize that they love him and know him and that they might be able to see the situation more objectively than he can. He would not show this type of respect to a stranger or even a friend or neighbor.

A woman must love her neighbors, but she should have a special love for her husband. Say a married couple is buying a new house. A close friend wants the couple to live near her, so they can visit more easily. The husband would like to live closer to work. The woman should put her love for her husband and her desire to please him ahead of her own desires and the desires of her friends.

Or suppose there’s some terrible natural disaster at your kids’ school. You rush there to check on them, to make sure they are okay. I think love for your children demands that you seek them out to provide comfort and assistance to them before offering comfort to other people in need. You must still love everyone affected by the tragedy, of course, but as a parent your children deserve a special and unique love that is primary to love for others.

True, but again there are always exceptions no? For instance, a son might not want to listen to his parents on a subject they know nothing about or might consult an expert (say, a relationship counselor or something) about his romantic life. In these cases, it seems more like parents and relations are treated basically like everyone else;why do you ask them for advice? because they know something about the subject; why do you go to them first? because they are closer to you and you know them better than others. So it seems to me that people honor their relations incidentally a lot of times, except in those things which are unavoidable in blood relations like the need to take care of your own kids since you did help to give them life and they are defenseless. But even here, the reasons for helping relations are not different from the reasons why you would help a stranger but rather the circumstances are; by definition you don’t give birth to strangers so you will never be in a circumstance to help them nor do you care for them as being your descendants. Is this a just analysis of the problem?

Yes, you are to love your family more than strangers. God created you in a particular context, and you have responsibility to those nearest to you. There are rules about what is designated to family alone. Rather, they come first in all things. You don’t give to the Church, or the poor or anyone else until you have first taken care of your family. Your responsibility is to take care of them and protect them, and if there is ever a conflict family should (ideally) come first. It’s like Michael Corleone said, never go against the family.:cool:

I think that if you generalize your love so that are equal in your eye, you end up loving no one. You might love ‘humanity’ in an abstract sense, but you end up resenting and having contempt toward individual people. There was a scen in the Brothers Karamazov, in which a man confessed this to Fr Zosima. He confessed that the longer he lived and the more he worked with men, the more he loved humanity. But he had contempt toward individual people. Little things about people irritated him. The more her loved humanity though, the more contempt he had for the people around him.


The poster boy for family values.

Hahaha. He loved his family.

But seriously, we all have responsibilities to particular people. We take care of those responsibilities first.

Fredo may not agree.

But then Fredo was a great disappointment.

Family is family. They come first - if they need anything and you can help, then you help.

Church comes second, then friends, then acquaintances, and then strangers.

Never take food away from your family’s table to feed strangers; that’s just wrong.

My last post hasn’t been answered, where I asked if family obligations are just normal obligations applied to extraordinary circumstances.

I think you are just playing with words here. The question probably wasn’t answered because I don’t think it’s particularly conherent.

“Extraordinary circumstances”? Well, yes, the family is extraordinary. God has established this. It is no mere quirk of random human evolution. The family is established by God. The commendment to honour/obey your parents is the first of the ten commandments to have a promise attached to it: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” This is God’s plan.

Normal obligations? No. Parents are charged with an extraordinary obligation. The catechism refers to “primordial responsibilities” to describe this. It also refers to the family as a “privileged community”. This is hardly the language you’d see if it was merely typical obligations.

I suggest you read this section of the catechism again as it speaks of these very issues:

I’m not engaging in word play, I’m just abstracting or separating, the idea of family away from human (which is sound in that humans do not depend on families for their definitions, plus what is mentally separable does not have to be really separable and what is really inseparable does not have to be mentally inseparable) in order to see what makes the idea of family obligations truly separate from those of normal obligations. Logically, it seems so far that there are none and I suppose your answer would agree since it recognized that family obligations are just normal obligations applied to a special circumstance -namely the existence of the family. The above post does seem to conflate how things can be analyzed with how they really are and this is what makes my post seem wrong in that I chose to analyze the individuals outside of the family relation while you chose to analyze the family as such. So from that POV it seemed like I was taking its existence lightly but I didn’t and don’t. But again, the nature of the obligations are at stake and not the nature of the family and it seems that the former are the foundations of the latter while the latter are just modifications of the former. This actually makes sense from a logical/metaphysical point of view in that we always describe ethics as a genus and then apply the genus to more specific things like families and people. And we always classify in general before we do so in particular. So the general good precedes the family and furnishes the source of our relations within it.

I understand what the Catechism has to say on this subject but I don’t understand what coherent rules follow from their proclamation.

So am I right?

Right about what? You’re talking like a first year university philosophy student who overcomplicates the way they analyse almost everything and uses impressive terms that are jargon at best.

Yes, there are family obligations that are different to normal obligations. The obligations of parenthood, which change but never entirely cease when their children are grown. The obligations of obedience of children, until they leave their parents home, and even following owe them a greater respect that they generally owe other adults. God has created mankind in this manner. The catechism linked to discusses all this. Stop over-analysing it.

If these things seem “conflated”, it is because you cannot separate them out and analyse them as you want. God has created us this way; there is no other way we know. Do you want to try to understand His mind in doing so? I’m afraid that’s beyond all of us.

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