Every year at the annual Thanksgiving family get together, Uncle Bob and Aunt Charlene end up drunk and entertaining the entire family with a Jerry Spring style argument in the front yard. Your dad sits in his chair watching the football game grimacing and groaning about how poorly the Broncos are doing, without getting up to give your mom a hand. Your brother shows up with his token ‘stripper’ girlfriend, whose boobs are hanging in the gravy plate – while HE talks incessantly about how rich and awesome and super his life is. Meanwhile, your sister’s kids are complete idiots, running around like heathens breaking things and you swear – by the way your nephew is scratching his head – that he has a pretty amazing case of lice. And worst of all. This. IS. YOUR. FAMILY!
Situations like this, and hundreds of other often pose the question do we have to like family? After all, these aren’t people that you CHOSE to be in your life. You were born in; it was an accident – a strange twist of fate that makes you question everything right and valid in the world today. Is it really necessary to like them?
For most of us, family offers strange insight into the dimensions of human character and behavior. We grow up with the people that we call family and rarely think twice about the realities of their behaviors until we are old enough to know better or choose better for ourselves. Even so, the family unit – no matter how dysfunctional – plays an immense role in shaping who we are and who we become. Family shapes our morality, and all of our decisions in life in one form or another. Some people may want to be like their family, while others strive to be the exact opposite. Either way, the people that you call family – have something to teach you and you have something to learn.
As far as liking them, the answer about whether we HAVE to like them is NO!
Sometimes family members that you love and care for do things in life that make your head spin or that you disagree with so strongly that it is difficult to stay true to yourself and actually ‘like’ them. Often times, family is the root of our turmoil, the beginning of our own madness and the catch all of our blame for everything that goes wrong in life. Once you become an adult, and able to move on and away from the family – you are no longer forced to deal with these people. While it may be difficult to completely wash your hands of your family forever and simply walk-away, the truth is some people have to try hard to do just that in order to save themselves. Remember, these folks shaped your thinking and likely are deeply ingrained inside your head and emotional wellbeing.
If your family is not quite as radical as the one mentioned above, but are just very different from you (but otherwise good), then not liking your family is probably more about yourself than about your kinfolk. Maybe you are fearful that you will end up like them one day. Or maybe you are ashamed of them. Many people see family as something to be embarrassed of. Maybe your parents are poor, or your sister has issues with alcoholism. In cases like this, you might think about being less judgmental and just enjoying your extended family as they are. This doesn’t mean that you have to be best friends or live across from one another – but should do your best to extract the good from your time together. In other words, rather than stay warped in the darkness of who they are – try to find the light. Eventually, there will come a time when you don’t have them around – and chances are no matter how angry they make you, you will miss them.
Family squabbles and arguments, unlike those we have with the people we choose to be in our life, often end up being long-term feuds that are fraught with anger and despair. While staying away, and staying mad – and maintaining the grievances may feel like the right thing to do, there is rarely a man who can be this way successfully and still be happy. One thing that each of has to learn, and often learn FIRST from family – is that forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. Forgiving your family and trying not to become engaged in their behavior or constantly questioning who they are is the easiest high road to take.
Perhaps the toughest lesson in life to be learned, is that we cannot change other people. We cannot change people that we love. We cannot control the behaviors and actions of others. As much as we might like to at times, making changes is one thing that every person has to do for him or herself. And this is true with your family members. Staying mad or resentful toward them – missing the annual Thanksgiving chaos, or otherwise writing them off completely only hurts you the most. And since there are no laws about actually liking your family – you need not feel ashamed or guilty for harboring the feelings towards them that you do. Chances are on some level, despite their madness – you still LOVE them!