A few weeks ago my teenage son had to write an essay in which he was asked to describe our family. Here is a portion of what he said:

“I have a very strong relationship with my family. They are loyal to me and love me with all their hearts. My parents keep me safe and help guide me through my day-to-day struggles, and my siblings are loyal to me and are fun to be around.”

What stood out to me was that of all the things he could have said about us, the thing he mentioned about us and his siblings was that we are all loyal to him.
Then last week, as I was driving my seven-year-old home from VBS, I asked him what the lesson was on and he answered, “Loving your family and being there for them.” Of course, I followed up with, “Well, what does that mean to you?” He quickly answered, “Well, if you love your family, you just have their backs no matter what.”

Dictionary.com defines a loyal person as someone who is characterized by or showing faithfulness to commitments, vows, allegiance, obligations, etc.
This got me thinking. How do we develop loyalty as something we value in our families? I think it starts with setting the standard that the people in your family are your teammates, your allies, and making loyalty to one-another a non-negotiable. That means you don’t share confidences or embarrassing stories with others without that person’s permission. You keep commitments you make to them and make them a priority. You take their side and defend them if you can, and if they are in the wrong you help them see it with gentleness and love, while never letting them wonder whose side you are on ultimately. You don’t let things that don’t matter come between your relationship and you support each other and encourage each other in your individuality even if you don’t share the same tastes and interests.

I’m sure my daughter doesn’t enjoy freezing in the stands of countless football games, or spending hours on end in the sun at track meets anymore than he enjoys sitting through hours of a ballet performance…but they do it in support of one-another. Do they always choose to? No. If they could, they would probably choose to go hang out with a friend or do something else, but we as a family have decided that we support each other and cheer each other on no matter what.
We try to tell our kids that friends will come and go, but your family will be your “forever friends” for the rest of your life.

Proverbs 17:17 (NLT) says: “A friend is always loyal,and a brother is born to help in time of need.”

If we want to have healthy families and leave a Godly legacy, I truly believe that loyalty has to be on our radar of things we are working toward. Our homes need to be places where we are free to be ourselves and loved unconditionally without ridicule or fear of being “exposed” to the outside world. If we can’t trust those that we live with, who can we trust? If we raise children in an environment of distrust and betrayal by those closest to them, how can they even truly learn to trust a future spouse, or most-importantly, how will they trust Jesus with their whole life?

Our families are not perfect, and they never will be this side of heaven. But If I had to choose…I’d rather live with a bunch of sinners trying their best to love one-another and have each other’s backs than a bunch of self-seeking disloyal ones any day! And the good news is this: loyalty and trust can be built over time no matter how far off track you have gotten, you just have to make a priority, one day at a time, and before you know it, you will see the fruit of the changes you have made.