Being Family!

It’s shocking but true, Family members don’t always get along!

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One of the most difficult matters to confront with respect to challenging family relationships is that we don’t control the entire relationship ourselves. Whether the relationship thrives or withers isn’t up to us alone. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. So often, family members get stuck. Despite our best intentions, we can become stubborn and defensive with one another.

When major family relationship problems are encountered, it’s common to attempt a control strategy. We try to get the other person to change, to understand the situation from our point of view.  Sometimes this approach can work if we are compelling and sincere enough.  But many times it just leads to frustration.  A second strategy might be to simply accept the other person, difficulties and all, just as they are! Yet, this could also result in frustration, as there may not be any true resolve within our hearts.

There is, however, a third alternative for those times when changing the other person & accepting the other person as-is are both unfruitful. That option is to change us in order to solve the problem. This requires that we redefine the problem as an internal one instead of an external one; meaning that I must change my attitude and filter in order to understand my family member and their point of view.

As long as we keep looking outside ourselves for the answers, we may continually find ourselves frustrated by our family members choices or decisions; always finding conflict with OUR personal values and choices. Once we start looking inside ourselves for the problem, we might find it easier to bring resolution. This does not imply “agreement”, simply relational resolution.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a close family that is genuinely supportive of the person you are, that’s wonderful, and in that situation, you’ll likely find the closeness of your family to be a tremendous source of strength to you! However, in many families, not all members are close or in agreement as to how life should be lived; thus conflict can occur, values differences cause hurt.

So, if we find ourselves in a family where some of the members are experiencing distance or challenge, it may feel impossible to be conflict-free. However, if we keep an open mind and a forgiving spirit we will keep the count of offenses lower; which will ultimately help in keeping family peace.

One way of experiencing “Family” in a fresh way is to give ourselves the freedom to re-define family to include those with whom we share our lives; kindred relationships that often times feel closer than our natural born families.  To nurture these relationships and invite them into the gaps that have been left vacant by our natural born family members who have chosen to remain distant, can be incredibly sweet and ultimately, rewarding.

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My point is simply this: Life is short.  We are born into families and it is our responsibility to navigate them as best, as kindly, as honestly as we can. If we find that after all is said and done we cannot call those family relationships “close”…invite trusted, caring friends into your “family circle” and share your life richly with them.

As I said in my first paragraph:  “Whether the relationship thrives or withers isn’t up to us alone. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango.”  Do you feel connected to family? Have you sought understanding and clarity? Do you have others who love and care for you that have “become” family to you?  Life is short, family matters!

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