Processing Post Holiday Family Dysfunction
Written By: Mark Smith
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My buddy Michael sat me down for a little talk this past week. When he invited me for breakfast I didn't know that I was going to get a talking to but I am always open to feedback and I appreciated it. After some uncomfortable interactions with my family of origin during the holidays I had sort of decided to 'divorce' three of my remaining four siblings. My friend had heard about the conflicts over Christmas as he is also a friend of the family. He told me that divorcing my siblings was a bad move. He quoted the scripture 'a prophet is not without honor except in his home town'. I'm not saying that I'm some kind of prophet but my issue was that it didn't feel like I was getting much respect of love out of most of my sibs. Truth be told they sort of treat me like a babbling idiot. It might not surprise you to learn that I come from an arrogant know it all bunch. When you get all those egos in one room it is a difficult fit. In my work, with my friends, on the basketball court, etc. I am always treated with a great deal of respect. Ok, maybe not always on the basketball court with my buddies but that is all in good fun. But when I get around my family I am not the hot shot therapist who people line up for me to dispense my wisdom. My role actually has always been below average guy who is a bit of a hot head. Family roles are hard to shake!
I had decided that if anyone was not coming forth with RESPECT then I was out. That isn't a bad philosophy in many respects but it is not an iron clad rule. Here is what Michael said that rocked me and spoke to me...'your can't divorce your family because they need you'. When we are nursing wounds we just don't see the needs of the people around us. He said 'get over yourself'. Be an example for your nieces and your nephews and your siblings. He encouraged me to not let my family's role for me penetrate my self-concept. He instructed me to grasp the big picture and stop being so touchy, to be big enough to turn the other cheek.
That was good feedback. So I have decided to not divorce my family. I am going to hang in with them and attempt to transend their pattern of disrespect by being the bigger man. That is tough when you many times feel like a defensive little boy. Jesus didn't get hurt by his hometown reaction of 'who do you think you are', He just did His thing.
Interactions with family are all good, even when they really hurt. Learn from them. Embrace them. That applies to your spouse as well. They are your teacher. So are your siblings. Don't give up and run away. That would be easier but it misses the point that relationships are there for your growth, humility and opportunities for insight. There are no victims!
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