Family relationships, like all relationships, benefit from kindness, attention and nurturing. Author, Jim Rohn, said:
“Your family and your love must be cultivated like a garden. Time, effort, and imagination must be summoned constantly to keep any relationship flourishing and growing.”
It’s one thing to be on your own – and quite another to have those by your side who are your family – by blood, marriage, choice – or just pure love.
How are you doing at nurturing your family ties? Is there someone in your life who sets an example and tends to nourish the family more or better than you? Are there any actions that you know, deep in your soul, that you wish you could take if only you could?
No consideration of family would be complete without some mention of family dynamics and the oftentimes difficult and dysfunctional events that occur. I’ve often been inspired by people who could observe family difficulties, yet not be sucked into any vortex of upset.
Family systems are a natural place for us to engage our own growth, observe our own limitations, and test our assumptions about how things should be. Our individual identities are so much a function of how we identify our families that it’s understandable that highly-charged emotions often surface.
Since every family has its share of dysfunction, yours has some. How well do you manage yours? What lessons have you learned about how best to navigate when there is some form of upset present – especially upset of long standing history that families have? What is your best advice to others in how to manage themselves in their family systems?
Our families are obviously not only the people that we know, but those who came before us whom we never knew. The writer, Thich Nhat Hanh, says:
“If you look deeply into the palms of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”
Amazing thought; isn’t it? He said *each* is present in our bodies. Families are the means by which we humans continue. Some cultures know a lot about their ancestors; our American culture, not so much. It’s mysterious to think about those people who preceded you – and that they were the continuation of those who came before, just as we are their continuation.
How connected are you to your family and, in particular, to your family history? You’re connected even if you never knew your birth parents. What characterizes that connection for you, and how can it be a richer part of your life?
This week, we’ve discussed both our families of blood as well as our families of choice. Larger than any of those is the human family comprised of all human beings. The Dalai Lama said:
“My message is that practice of compassion, love and kindness. Compassion can be put into practice if one recognizes the fact that every human being is a member of humanity and the human family regardless of differences in religion, culture, color and creed. Deep down there is no difference.”
In a world with deep divisions, sectarian violence and war, how able are you to view everyone as a member of the human family? What kind of feelings does that view afford? For example, is there more compassion in recognition of the fact that all of us share the human condition? Is the notion of human family overly idealistic, or does it have value and application in our modern world?
“Family,” of course, means immediate blood relations, but it’s clear that it also means “family of choice.” These are friends we have met through a variety of circumstances with whom we have become exceedingly close and we consider “like family.”
Back in Ancient Greece, Homer said, “A sympathetic friend can be quite dear as a brother.” No doubt, each of you has encountered people in your life who are as dear as the closest of blood relatives – and, no doubt, those ties are as real as any.
What is your perception about these special people in your life? Do you recognize those ties as the same as blood relations? If they are different, how are they different? What is required for you to consider someone “as family”? All hyperbole aside, are there differences in your “family of choice” and your “family by blood”?