Why is Taking Care of Self and Family a Virtue?
Taking care of one’s self and family are not among the virtues discussed by philosophers or scholars. Yet, taking care of one’s body and mind is essential if we are to meet our commitments to all others, not least our family. And taking care of our families is the very foundation of civil society and living in liberty.
The family is the smallest political and social unit of a civil society. It is the first place where we mitigate the vicissitudes of life by pledging to take care of another as exemplified in the traditional marriage vow: “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live.” Therefore, the family stands as the most important alternative to an ever expanding government and the inevitable loss of liberty it entails.
Second, the family is vital to the physical and moral upbringing of our children. Providing food and shelter for one’s family is an essential act of living in liberty. Just as important is the moral lessons we teach our children through our own actions. As Bill Bennett writes in the introduction to The Book of Virtues:
Moral education – the training of heart and mind toward the good – involves many things. It involves rules and precepts – the dos and don’ts of life with others – as well as explicit instruction, exhortation, and training. Moral education must provide training in good habits. Aristotle wrote that good habits formed at youth make all the difference. And moral education must affirm the central importance of moral example. It has been said that there is nothing more influential, more determinant, in a child’s life than the moral power of quiet example. For children to take morality seriously they must be in the presence of adults who take morality seriously. And with their own eyes they must see adults take morality seriously.
Third, the family is where we give and receive the gift of unconditional love. Those who have been blessed by living in such a family can express their gratitude by seeking to inculcate the tradition in the next generations by providing unconditional love to their extended families. And, those who have not been so blessed may commit to developing such a tradition within their own families.
The social and economic pathologies common to communities dominated by single parent households bears tragic witness to the consequences of failing to take care of one’s family. Within these communities are heroic parents and exceptional children who rise above their circumstances. However, according to the Heritage Foundation, children born and raised outside marriage are nearly seven times more likely to live in poverty than children born to and raised by a married couple. And, the breakdown of the family has been promulgated by government programs, which in turn have become a lifeline for those living under the authority of the welfare system.
Taking care of one’s self and family starts with embracing all of the other virtues. At different moments and in a variety of ways, it demands the exercise of self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, friendship, work, courage, perseverance, honesty loyalty and faith. As such, it represents the culmination of all of the virtues. Given the importance of taking care of one’s self and family to a civil society and liberty, it deserves to be considered a virtue in its own right.
- Is taking care of one’s self necessary for one’s dignity?
- What is the first step in taking care of one’s self?
- What is essential to taking care of one’s family?
- What are the biggest challenges in America today to fulfilling this virtue?
- How can Community of Liberty contribute to our members’ capacity to take care of their selves and their families?
- What new actions do you see you can now take?