In some families there are treasured possessions, usually antiques or pieces of jewelry, that get passed down for generations through family members. There's a certain pride and responsibility in partaking in that transfer of ownership. After all, heirlooms represent family history and the preservation of those highly coveted and valued possessions helps to maintain family order.
We associate heirlooms with items like antique clocks, baby grand pianos, quilts, engagement rings/jewelry, letters and pictures, recipes, and in some instances, property. In families that lack material keepsakes as well as in those that have heirlooms, there are also non-material items that follow a similar path. High on the list of non-material items that get passed down for generations through family members, are beliefs.
Beliefs are part of a bigger system that ultimately shapes values. Family members have the right to choose which beliefs they adopt as their own just as they can decide which heirlooms they covet the most, but a large majority of non-material heirloom recipients tend to gravitate towards those beliefs first explained to them at a young age, and by their respected elders.
Non-material heirlooms such as beliefs, can find their way into the subconscious and reside there unchallenged for a lifetime. There they become the non-material heirlooms we unknowingly covet with grand conviction, and as with the path of all heirlooms, these beliefs get passed down for generations through respected family members.
Stories that begin with "Your grandmother used to say..." or "Your great uncle believed that..." are the ways a lot of these beliefs find their way into family folklore. Because these beliefs are told to us at young ages we don't always possess the critical thinking skills that might help us better process this new information. As a result, we store these beliefs similar to the way we do a majority of our material heirlooms, up in the attic or in a Hope Chest, out of sight and out of mind.
Most non-material family heirlooms are harmless pieces of trivia and sometimes little is known as to their origin, and that's okay. After all, whether these stories are fact or fiction does little to minimize their importance in family folklore. Non-material heirlooms can be a lot of fun and because they're non-material, all family members can share in their ownership.
But occasionally, when a non-material family heirloom makes a sudden appearance it can be startling, especially to non-family members. Usually, it's during casual conversation that these dust-covered beliefs find their way out of the dark and into the light. Someone might use demeaning words to describe people different than themselves, revealing not only their own implicit biases but also their family's non-material heirlooms.
One of the most difficult things to do is challenge the belief system you've inherited from the people you love and respect. But if an individual's goal is to continue growing throughout their lifecycle, then challenging and ultimately changing their belief system might be the only way to reach that end.
Of all the family heirlooms, beliefs can be the most damning inheritance...