Are you using the label “Family”, as an excuse to take advantage of another human being?
Many don’t like to admit it but the way we treat members of our immediate and extended families can look like we have permission to –
- Control what they say and think
- Get involved in every facet of their lives whether or not we’ve been invited to
- Make rude and inapropriate comments towards them
It’s been made clear to me that in this lifetime and within numerous cultures, we all have that one thing in common, we treat family worst than we treat strangers.
A stranger can have a different opinion than you do and it doesn’t shatter your world. In fact, you might even be more open to hearing that opinion.
But once you’re related by blood or marriage, it’s suddenly a proclamation of war to disagree with a family member.
A perfect family for some reason looks like tiptoeing around everyone’s ideas and opinions. Afraid to say what’s truly on your heart in fear that family will rise up against you.
When you’re angry at a family member, does it look differently than when you’re mad at a co-worker, stranger or neighbor? Would you sooner take some time to think about your response when arguing with someone at work? Maybe even check in with a peer about how to respond before responding?
There is an ever present idea that lingers above members of a family;
We’re family no matter what. Even if I hurt you or you hurt me, we are still family.
It sounds like a novel idea, but it can also give family members a free pass to say and do any act of inapropriate behaviour, knowing that at the end of the day there still needs to be an expression of love and acceptance.
The goal within many families is to keep the family together. Together no matter who is secretly hurting. Together no matter the number of unresolved issues. Together no matter the amount of emotional abuse one must take.
There is a fear of being an outsider from one’s bloodline. Fear of no longer being invited to family BBQs or being a part of the good times that can potentially be experienced.
I challenge you to take a look at the role you play within your family. Is it one that takes emotional abuse in an effort to not feel alone? Is it the one that holds unrealistic expectations over each family member?
Are you the one that holds guilt over family members? Or the one that is the subject of inapropriate jokes or bullying antics?
Families can be toxic. But they don’t have to be. Change in family can start with you. Here are some steps to a healthy family dynamic:
- Don’t feel you have the right to be involved.
- It’s ok to not know the quarrel between each family member. It’s ok to not have an opinion. It’s even better to not take sides.
When a member of the family confides in you, console them alone. Don’t involve others. Wait to be invited by both parties before getting involved.
- Don’t let offense determine your attitude towards a family member.
- If you end a dispute with, “agree to disagree” and continue your relationship with a rude attitude. Or maybe even begin to “ghost” these family members.
Perhaps you smile to that person’s face but discuss with numerous other family members your offense- you’re setting up to split apart a family or play a major role in the emotional abuse of another.
It’s just as easy to handle your offenses privately or take a step away from family in an effort to keep the peace.
- Boundaries are key!
- Perhaps you’re used to getting the opinion of family members on the life decisions you make. Perhaps you feel bound by tradition to keep involving unhealthy family members into your life.
Is it better to feel obligated to have someone in your life? Or to desire them there?
If after time spent with a family member, you feel exposed, vulnerable and taken advantage of- then it’s time to set some boundaries. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting your own Netflix account.
Not every member of the family has a right to be a part of every aspect of your life. That’s simply because not everyone will have the right amount of respect towards every aspect of your life.
Respect to allow you to make your own decisions. Respect to not have an opinion unless asked.
Don’t let your desire to have a family dynamic that looks like the Robertson’s, (love that Duck Dynasty), over take the safety of your heart.
Mending a relationship can take years. Having set boundaries respected can take years of practice. Years of patience. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Don’t feel like your family dynamic is your fault or what you deserve.
No matter how others present their family dynamics on social media, every family has dirty laundry. You’re not the odd one out.
If you’re in a season where your blood relatives are distant, take solace in your friendships. You’ll be plesently surprised by the number of them that are also in need of a family outside of their blood relatives.
Take time to journal:
• Can you pin point two occasions in your life:
- One where you were the victim of hurt within your family. What were the acts done toward you that made you a victim?
- One where you were the predator within your family. What were the acts you did to victimize someone else?
• What is one change you can make now to positively affect the family dynamic for the next generation within your bloodline?
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “ ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
Matthew 10:34-39 NIV