By Heather Riggleman, Crosswalk.com
Years ago, when I was taking a creative writing class, we were tasked with researching the meaning of our names and the origin of our last names. When I discovered that my name means a flowering shrub that grows in rocky places, it took on a deeper meaning. Especially after learning my middle name means to be reborn and my last name means wolf who guarded its territory of the woods.
The interesting part is I grew into my name and reflected on its meaning, I realized no matter what came my way, I still managed to bloom while fighting for God’s best for my family. One evening as we dived deeper into our heritage, the meaning of names, Tori quipped, “Yep, you always bloom where you’re planted,” while my son smirked and said, “No she always guards our gates.”
Two Family Mottos
As unrelated as those two phrases seem, both became family mottos.
- Bloom where you’re planted: No matter how hard something was for any of us, this phrase would come in in conversation. Is math tough? Bloom. New job? Bloom. New school and town – bloom where you are planted.
- Guard your gates: Whenever someone or something threatened the state of our family, this phrase would be our battle call. This included standing up for each other at school or anywhere else. Later it became the signal for my children to cover their eyes or ears whenever something inappropriate came on the TV or the radio.
The more I thought about phrases we often repeat, I realized we are passing down important life lessons to our children through repetition at key moments. The Bible reminds us we are to pass down the Word to our children too. God knew the importance of impressing it upon our children from the time they are born to the time they leave the nest. One of the greatest commandments God gave is found in Deuteronomy 6 when he commanded, we love the Lord with all our hearts, mind, and strength.
“These words I am commanding you today are to be upon your hearts. And you shall teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as reminders on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.”
What Are the Benefits of a Family Motto?
We want our voices to echo in their minds as they become adults and not just the phrases of “flush the toilet,” or “wash your hands.” We want our words to echo strength, encouragement, and empowerment. Whether we like it or not, we as parents are constantly repeating ourselves. But what if we repeat ourselves in a way that imparts wisdom?
This is the benefit of a family motto. When we think about what our kids are hearing and being deliberate about what we say to them is key to shaping who they will become and key to building resilience and strength as well as a love for God. Family mottos are beneficial because it provides a sense of identity and unity.
What Is a Family Motto?
A family motto is a mantra, a phrase, or a mission statement that captures what your family stands behind in just a few words. It is usually a short, easy to memorize, repeat, and recall. Family mottos can give your kids a real sense of identity in a world pulling them in a million different directions. They can also give them something to remember when they are out with their friends. It creates a sense of unity and purpose that can get children through tough times as they navigate school, friends, and general teenage life.
Examples of mottos:
We can do hard things.
Be the good.
Add more good.
Guard your gates.
Bloom where you’re planted.
Onward and upward.
Have courage and be kind.
Seek justice and love mercy.
Work hard. Play hard. Pray harder.
Stand for something.
Just keep swimming.
Always, we begin again.
We don’t give up.
Many of these phrases are real-life examples from friends and quite a few of them are based on Scripture that resonates with their family. For example, ‘We can do hard things,’ is from Philippians 4:13. The point of the motto is that it resonates with your family and prioritizes what your family values. Why are family values vital? Amanda Idleman writes:
“Family values have a huge impact on how we approach almost every part of our lives. As adults we draw on the lessons we learn in our homes as we grow up to help us navigate the relationships and responsibilities adulthood brings. Growing up in a home that emphasized a positive value system such as honesty, trust, respect, and so on can give you a huge leg up when you enter adulthood.”
Before modern times, a family motto was actually a family crest based on a family’s surname. The family crest or coat of arms originated in Europe and represented families or clans. They were used in order to differentiate themselves from their enemies. Later, they were adopted by families as identification marks. These crests were symbolized by shape, color, and other symbols.
The earliest known ‘clans’ were the tribes of Israel. According to the Bible, Jacob’s twelve sons became the twelve tribes: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. Each of the tribes had different jobs as God’s people.
What Are Some Ways to Come Up with a Family Quote?
If you are ready to start a tradition or leave a legacy, family mottos are a great way to start. When it comes to choosing a family motto, think about some phrases that are often repeated in your home and why.
Is it something like:
Just do it
Just keep swimming
We can do hard things
No one gets left behind
Family mottos can be based on key Scriptures your family values too. When moments are tough, it will remind each family member who they truly are. Lysa TerKerust taught her children the motto, “Remember who you are.” She adds, “This was the perfect statement. Not because it’s incredibly profound to the rest of the world. But it is to my kids. It’s our family motto. We’ve spent years teaching our kids character lessons and highlighting people who model solid integrity. We’ve tied these lessons to be defining marks on what we want our name to stand for when people think of us.”
If the beginnings of your family motto something along these lines, your family is a great place to start. The next step is calling a family meeting to explain what mottos are and why your family should have one. Then ask for suggestions and feedback. Ask each member of the family to write their idea down on paper and share with each other verbally and on paper. Once your family has selected a motto, talk about the meaning and value of the phrase. If it helps, print out a few copies of the motto for each person’s bedroom and living room.
No matter the phrase—family mottos are a pivotal way to build faith in Christ and the values chosen will help your family represent Christ. It’s a great way to bring unity into your family and be united under Christ.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Wave Break Media
Heather Riggleman is an author, national speaker, former award-winning journalist and podcast co-host of the Moms Together Podcast. She calls Nebraska home with her three kids and a husband of 21 years. She believes Jazzercise, Jesus, and tacos can fix anything and not necessarily in that order! She is author of I Call Him By Name Bible Study, the Bold Truths Prayer Journal, Mama Needs a Time Out, and Let’s Talk About Prayer and a contributor to several books. Her work has been featured on Proverbs 31 Ministries, MOPS, Today's Christian Woman, and Focus On the Family. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com or on Facebook.