With the collapse of the traditional family mode and the accelerated development of the capitalist world, the world has changed significantly. According to John Dewey, “The significant thing is that the loyalties which once held individuals, which gave them support, direction, and unity of outlook on life, have well-nigh disappeared” (Individualism—Old and New, 1962). And the situation remains the same in the 21st century. There has been more flexibility on lifestyle and people are no longer under the pressure—or under less pressure –of forming a family.
Some people choose to devote their whole self to what they want to do, claiming that carrying out family values will prevent themselves from choosing what they really want and affect the process of realizing self-fulfillment. There has been a heated debate on whether family values are contradictory to personal choice as well as self-fulfillment. This essay will consider arguments in support of family values conflicting personal choice as well as self-fulfillment, and then point out the problems of these statements. It will set forth reasons why family values are not contradictory to personal choice as well as self-fulfillment.
Many people claim that people are not free to make personal choice because of family values, especially in a society dominated by Confucius culture, where several generations live together and filial piety as well as blood relationship is appreciated; however, this is not true. In Confucius culture, rather than love relationships between couples, much weight is put on the affection between family members. As Lin Yutang said in “The Chinese family ideal”, this affection contributes to a feeling of obligation which amounts to a deeply religious attitude.
This leads some people to suspect that family members may have to sacrifice their own opportunities or even personal life for the advantage of the whole family, which negatively affects their pursuit of self-actualization. Generally speaking, this statement is true. Nevertheless, it is insufficient in the sense that it ignores the implications of affection between family members and wrongly interprets Confucius family mode. Chinese philosophers make the passion between husband and wife the very basis of a normal human life so much that they regard it as the very foundation of all normal human life (Lin Yutang, 1937).
Besides, Confucius culture starts out with a belief that man exists as a member of family unit and no one exists completely alone. So, by emphasizing the affection between family members, Confucius culture regards one’s achievement the glory of his own and at the same time the glory of his family. In other words, the whole family will stand out if one member needs help, which means it is possible to facilitate his chase of self-fulfillment with the resource from the whole family.
It can be inferred that with family values, how much easier it is for one to fulfill himself once he makes the decision. Family values play an important role in facilitating one’s pursuit of self-fulfillment, especially in a family appreciating Confucius culture. It has been argued by some that one evidence showing how family values are against personal choice as well as self-fulfillment is the unattainable balance between career and family; yet this statement is problematic.
With the accelerated pace of city life in modern society, many people have failed to maintain a job and a family at the same time. And in most of the follow-up of these cases, men turn to career and have to spend little time with family members while women sacrifice their career to stay at home and look after the whole family, and more and more young people turn to a personal choice of remaining single in the name of pursuing self-fulfillment, instead of celebrating family values by marrying a spouse and having children as what people did in the old days.
However, although the dilemma of modern citizens does exist, the statement above is no longer correct, for it is the result of misunderstanding. As Immanuel Kant introduced in his philosophical system, freedom is not about doing what we want according to instinct, but about realizing our free will by controlling our instincts. Therefore, family values are not to blame for restraining our choices as we are not free to our choices in the first place. People should face the fact that their time is limited and be aware of their unlimited choice of way of self-fulfillment.
This means, to work for long hours to support the family is an admirable method to value the family and fulfill themselves as well. From my point of view, family values and personal choice as well as self-fulfillment are so tightly connected with each other that we cannot even separate them. Self-fulfillment is realized through a series of personal choices, and personal choice depends heavily on the influence of family values. Because the personal choice one makes is never fully personal.
It is affected by numerous external factors, for example, the economic and political environment, the inter-person relationship as well as the mainstream values, and he justifies and weighs these factors using his beliefs which are influenced by his family values. On top of this, whatever the social environment and cultural background, the universal family values contain the concepts of flexibility, communication, compromise and unconditional love. Healthy family values are intended to make the family a positive and supportive place for members, facilitating their personal choices as well as self-fulfillment.
After analyzing the arguments presented here for both sides of this question, it can be contended that family values are not contradictory to personal choice as well as self-fulfillment. People’s belief for family values can be a strong support for one to realize his ambitions in the sense that the whole family will be his backing. And one’s pursuing for self-fulfillment can be another admirable way to celebrate family values. Family values, personal choice as well as self-fulfillment are actually interactive factors positively affecting each other.