Author’s note to newcomers: Our family of origin—or the culture in our own homes—has a considerable impact on our work, our rest, the lens through which we interpret relationships, our kids, our conversation, our spirituality, even our sex life (betcha didn’t think you’d find them in there!).
Plus, I just think it’s plain interesting to understand where we came from—as someone who lives in a different culture that’s helped me better understand my own. It’s helped me be more gracious, more wise, more self-knowledgeable (which helps me be more aware in my relationship with God), and hopefully more holy.
Remember when using these to imagine tacking on the end of every question, Why? and How did this affect you and/or your family?
- How did your family approach physical affection? Were they huggers, wrestlers…? Would your parents ever, say, hold hands, or smooch in the kitchen? What was the place of touch in your family? (I realize that many have received unhealthy touch from their family–which impacts subculture and obviously a great deal more. If you’re suffering from sexual abuse, I compassionately recommend The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse, The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse–and a truly wise counselor.)
- What was the role of physical beauty in your family? Did the women wear lots of makeup, not much, or none at all—and before what audiences? Did family members spend a lot of money or time on appearance? If they worked out, why did they work out? What was considered beautiful in a woman or a man (muscles? Long hair? Manicured nails? A tan?)? How did your culture influence what you found lovely (i.e. understated beauty? Lots of glitz? Skinny women? Curvy women? Artistic/funky beauty)? Where did your family derive their definitions of beauty (Your neighborhood? Magazines? If so, which? Your neighborhood?)? In what ways does your family outwardly resemble–or fail to resemble–your neighborhood?
- What hobbies does the bulk of your family share? Are they readers, carpenters, mechanics, chefs, gamers, hikers, bikers? Do your parents share any hobbies?
- How did travel and moving houses—or lack thereof—affect your family? For example, missions trips to developing nations deeply affected how my sisters and I saw the world. My parents now travel around the world to visit us on the four continents where we reside. My dad, however, did not move from the family farm in our small town in the northern U.S. until he was 41—so we had a lot of deep roots, but also a lot to learn from our new home and culture in the suburban mid-South.
- Describe how disabilities or health issues affected your family.
- What strengths and weaknesses did your parents jointly share? How did those define your family? My husband and I are both “thinkers”, so we can take ourselves a little too seriously—but God also gave us some zany, crazy kids to balance that out. However, all of us are readers, and we enjoy talking about abstract concepts. Lately we’ve also realized that both of us lack a certain aspect of character (confidential for now)—so our kids do, too. We’ve decided to pray as a family about this for a month, both for God’s power and for practical solutions to help us change.
- What’s the role of physical fitness in your family? Who exercises, and why? If there are weight or eating issues, what issues have affected those? (Think out of the box on this one. Perhaps, for example, your family is built skinny, so they aren’t motivated to work out or eat well, or perhaps they have little compassion for weight problems.) I tend to be a disciplined, people-pleasing overachiever, which (among other issues) influenced a brush with a near-eating disorder in college. Others I know have strong attachments with emotion to food, be it comfort, to making one’s body less attractive (say, after abuse), or what they’ve been deprived from or inundated with in their homes of origin. Most Ugandan families I know don’t work out, but their lives are surrounded by walking and lifting, and they have few extra calories to spare. Those who have become rich can sometimes lack portion control since it is not commonly taught in a culture that struggles to obtain basic provisions.
- What made each of your parents happy? How did the rest of the family, and the other parent, react to this—e.g. certain personalities actively seeking or preventing that happiness?
- Describe how any addictions have affected your family. Remember, though substance abuse is unquestionably influential, to think more broadly. People can be addicted to sex, approval, risk, eating (or not eating), shopping, appearance, sugar… For help, consider Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave: Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel (Resources for Changing Lives).
- Which family members provide stability in your family? How do they do this?
- Which family member would each family member talk to first in a crisis, and why?
- Which family member often drives conversation in your family? Who drives care and concern? Who makes decisions? Who keeps things light and fun? Who’s the most organized? Who’s the most likely to think differently than the rest?