By Byron Webster
Family counselor and scholar William Doherty wrote a book entitled, The Intentional Family: How to build family ties in our modern world.1 The title of the book itself expresses a philosophy worth thinking deeply about: building a successful, happy family does not just happen; it takes deliberate, conscious effort. The opposite of intentional or deliberate is entropy. Entropy is the tendency for a system to lose energy over time. That is what happens to families when we do not put forth effort; families deteriorate, lose energy, and even drift apart. An example of entropy in families is when we let external or selfish activities determine what we do instead of applying healthy principles.
Another book that focuses on healthy families is Strengthening Our Families: An In-Depth Look at the Proclamation on the Family2. Chapter Fourteen of that book focuses on the following phrase from the Proclamation: Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of...wholesome recreational activities (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, ¶ 7). Some people think that recreational activities are those things we do to relax and not work when, in fact, wholesome family recreation may take a great deal of effort and planning to accomplish. Doesn't recreation just happen in families? Not necessarily.
It is true that spontaneous, fun activities do happen in our families. We certainly should be open and flexible to the point that we can enjoy those activities that "just happen." However we can't count on those activities happening very often. We do need to intentionally plan and schedule recreation with our family. Many of our recreational activities should actually have a purpose, a goal.
We should consider our philosophy about recreation. And we all have a philosophy about recreation. Some think that recreation is simply idleness, not working. Watching television or videos and playing video/computer games would be examples of idleness. Recreation and idleness are not the same thing.
Wholesome recreation serves the purpose of not only having fun but also teaching and bonding in families. We learn relax and balance work and play. We learn cooperation, fairness, teamwork, personal growth, taking turns and more.
We also learn that it doesn't take a lot of money to have fun. Societies philosophy, as shown in many television commercials, tells us that the only way to have fun is to buy expensive equipment and go on lavish vacations at expensive places. There is certainly nothing wrong with any of that unless that is the only type of recreation that we engage in.
Of course society promotes some recreational activities as legitimate when there is something very wrong with them. Gambling, now publicized as "gaming," is an obvious example. Some even promote gambling as a sport. We have been warned repeatedly of the harmful and even addictive qualities of gambling. And, of course, we should not participate in most wholesome recreational activities on the Sabbath.
Some of the principles that can help guide us in our family recreation include3:
We do make a difference in our families. How we plan and implement activities, including wholesome recreation, reflects our commitment to our families. We can intentionally lead our families in healthy and successful way.
1 W.J. Doherty (1997), The intentional family: How to build family ties in our modern world (New York: Addison-Wesley).
2 David C. Dollahite (2000), Strengthening Our Families: An In-Depth Look at the Proclamation on the Family (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft).
3 Dollahite (Ed) 2000, 199.
Byron Webster is a member of the faculty in the Department of Home and Family at Brigham Young University - Idaho