It amazes me when truly terrible ideas enjoy broad and enduring popularity. One of those surprising ideas is about the way we teach our children values.
Some years ago one best-selling book recommended that every family teach a new value each month of the year. So far so good. Children need to be taught values and how to enact them. They do not learn life-affirming, healthy values by accident.
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We hear it everywhere—from talk shows and books, during relationship seminars, in discussions with friends: “Communication is the key to a happy relationship.” The belief is that if we will simply invest more time in communicating our thoughts, concerns, and needs to each other, we can overcome disagreements, reduce irritation, and eliminate hurting one another.
I think the idea is utter non-sense.
Certainly effective communication is a critical part of any loving relationship. Sharing thoughts and feelings and knowing you are each heard and understood can set the stage for emotional intimacy and enable problem solving. But there are limits to the benefits of communication.
We all have ideas that make us miserable.
Commonly those misery-making ideas come from our popular culture and we tout them as timeless truth. But bad ideas—popular or not—can cause a lot of mischief.
Let me give you a historical example of a misery-making idea.
In response to hoarseness and a sore throat, doctors bled George Washington, the ailing past president and a national hero. Bloodletting was the standard practice in many medical dilemmas. In 12 hours, the past president was drained of 80 ounces—about 5 units–of blood. That’s 35% of all the blood in his body!