Family was just about everything back before electricity, when you lived and died at the will of your king or queen or chieftain. Loyalty to the group, particularly the leader, was vital to survival. History is full of tales in which the knight demonstrates his faithfulness to his leader, mostly in battle, but sometimes in other ways. If you were lucky to survive whatever your king commanded of you, you might be given a coat of arms or crest as a reward. It was the practice at one time, then, for the nobility to have a motto to go with their coat of arms or family crest. All the "cool" families had them. My family had a coat of arms, somewhere in Germany, but I don't think that they got around to having a family motto.
A motto is a mantra, it's a reminder, it's a prayer. It is a promise, a vow, a comfort. It is whatever it needs to be. Armies use mottoes as a rallying cry to boost morale or help soldiers gather courage before a fight. "Remember the Alamo" was a powerful motto, for example, repeated over and over by men fighting for the independence of Texas. Sports teams use mottoes to inspire their players, and to get their fans enthusiastic.
I have always liked the idea of a family motto; a phrase or sentence to represent the family to others. When Larry and I were dating, planning our life together, we made up a family motto: Whatever comes, we share. One of us would start the sentence, and the other would be there with the finish. It was just the two of us having fun, but a funny thing happened along the way: our motto became us.
We have had a lot of trauma in our lives, Larry and I. A burden shared is a burden lightened, they say. We have had many joys as well, the biggest being the birth of our son. A joy shared is multiplied a thousandfold. (I don't know if anybody ever said that, except me, but I like it.) And through it all, our family motto has bound us together, the tendrils of our words winding tenaciously around each of us, extending now to our son. Whatever comes, we share. There is strength in our motto, and faith, and love. Whatever has come, we have shared. Whatever is coming, we will share.
Does your family have a motto?