In this article, for the occasion of the International Day of Families observed on 15th May, Dr Miguel Cano Jiménez discusses the importance of the family for the establishment of a peaceful society and world, describing it as the basic unit or brick with which society and the world are built.

Dr Miguel Cano JiménezFamily ethics

Social or community ethics aims to guarantee stability, cohesion and common happiness in the family, society, nation or world.

Given that the family is the first and simplest social unit in which people are born, raised and educated, and that the desire to form a family is one of the most basic and universal human aspirations, we begin with the study of family ethics.

Families are the basic units or bricks with which society and the world are built

Families are like the cells of the social organism. Individuals cannot be these basic units or cells of society because, among other reasons, they cannot multiply or reproduce by themselves.

In addition, the family structure is present universally in virtually all past and present cultures and societies, and all historical attempts to establish communities or societies trying to eliminate the family structure ended up in complete failure.

The family is a microcosm of the universe

The family is a microcosm that is governed by natural laws and unchanging moral laws. In fact, in the universe all beings and things exist in the form of pairs of masculine and feminine entities, and the most simple and general law of the cosmos is the universality of reciprocal interactions between pairs of complementary entities, or law of giving and receiving. These interactions are the ones that guarantee the existence, movement, stability and cohesion of all the systems of the universe.

Similarly, the harmonious union between husband and wife is governed by that same general law that governs the universe; that is to say, it is realized through relationships consisting of the mutual exchange of love, care and services, which are the ones that guarantee the existence, multiplication, stability and happiness of the family.

Universal and invariable family rules and conventional and variable rules

For this reason, there are universal family norms which are invariable moral laws, such as the universal precepts of filial piety, conjugal fidelity, fraternity and paternal and maternal sacrificial love, as well as the prohibitions against incest and adultery. Proof of this is that the violation of these rules causes the deterioration or disruption of the give and take circuit between family members and the destruction of harmony and family happiness.

In addition to these unchanging moral laws, in the family there are other less important or secondary rules or norms that are conventional and variable, such as the particular division of tasks or social roles.

The role of the family as moral maker

The most natural place, the most favorable circumstances and the most beneficial environment for human beings to form their character and conscience, acquire good habits and reach moral maturity or self-control is or should be the family.

The majority of educators and psychologists, as well as all religions, agree on highlighting the extraordinary importance of the family in the moral development of individuals.

The family: School of love, virtues and respect for norms

We can affirm, then, that the family is the school of love, virtues and norms, as Reverend Sun Myung Moon emphasized in many of his lectures:

The family is the school of love; it is the most important school in life. Within the family, children cultivate the depth and breadth of their heart to love others. It is education of love and emotion that only parents can provide, and it becomes the foundation stone to form the children’s character. The family is also the school teaching virtues, norms and manners. It is the way of Heaven that people receive academic education, physical education and technical education on the foundation of this primary education of heart and virtues.[1]

Education of heart

The family is the school of love par excellence in which the education of the heart is imparted

The education of the heart is what teaches the most important and fundamental human needs, that is, to learn to give and receive love, to love and to be loved.

First, children learn to receive love and, to a lesser extent, to give. As they grow, they cultivate their capacity to give love so that in the juvenile age they exercise in a reciprocal giving and receiving.

And later, through experiencing conjugal and parental love, they develop even more the capacity to give love, to the point of being able to love unconditionally, that is, with the simple aim of making others happy.

In this way, they may progress towards a moral maturity leaving behind the children's egocentric motivations, passing through the young people’s motivations of expectations of shared happiness, until reaching the unselfish and sacrificial motivations of parents.

The family is the school where the more elementary good habits or virtues are cultivated, as well as the respect for the most basic moral norms

In the first stage in which the children are dependent on them, trust and filial piety towards the parents is cultivated. At the same time, because of this trust and stimulated by rewards and punishments, the child learns to respect the elementary moral norms that their parents inculcate in them, such as not lying, not stealing, not hurting oneself or others, and sharing things or helping others.

In the second juvenile stage of autonomy or independence, honesty, reciprocity, cooperation, trust and mutual help are cultivated, and moral norms learned to be respected, not because the parents dictate them, but by the call of the children’s own conscience.

For example, they do not lie because this could break the relationships of love and mutual trust with friends or colleagues.

Later, when a family is formed and children are born, the third stage of interdependence begins, in which one can cultivate mutual fidelity, benevolence, compassion and sacrificial capacity, as well as developing unconditional respect for certain universal moral norms, even if their observance is detrimental to themselves.

The most essential and important education is the education of the heart

Therefore, three types of education are imparted in the family; the education of the heart, the education of character or virtues, and the education of duty or respect for norms. However, the most essential and important is the education of the heart, which teaches to cultivate the potential or capacity to give love in an altruistic and sacrificial way.

This is because human beings have been configured to experience maximum happiness or joy through establishing stable, fluid and intense relationships of reciprocal exchanges with their loved ones, namely, giving and receiving love, loving and being loved. In these relationships of love, persons find their identity, their value and the meaning of their lives.

It is precisely this cultivation of the capacity to give love for the simple purpose of making others happy which guarantees the stability, fluidity and continuity of relationships and, therefore, maximizes the degree of shared joy and happiness.

In fact, the formation of the character or acquisition of virtues and the respect for norms are only means to reach that end, just like being a good driver and respecting the traffic rules are only means to arrive safely at the desired destination.

Reverend Sun Myung Moon even assigns a divine and eternal dimension to the parental, conjugal and filial love that is experienced in the family, as can be seen in this quote:

God’s love abides where parents, husband and wife, and children are united in love. Where these three kinds of love come together, God dwells absolutely and for eternity.

This family is God’s dwelling-place. Wherever there is unchanging parental love, unchanging conjugal love, and unchanging children’s love, God is always present.[2]

Stages of development

[1] Sun Myung Moon, Speech Collection Books, Seoul, HSA-UWC, 271:80, (August 22, 1995).

[2] Sun Myung Moon, Speech Collection Books, Seoul, HSA-UWC, 131:112, (April 22, 1984).


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