As the holidays wrapped up, I knew I wanted to write a piece on family. Holidays, for the more fortunate, are when one has to figure out how to divide up their time between friends and family. Some people consider their friends as family. Some people don’t even get along with their family, but feel obligated to celebrate the holidays with them. Some people have what everyone wants during the holidays and that’s a carefree, joyous time with their family, filled with warmth and love. Unsure as to where I wanted to go with my post, I did a poll on FB to see what others would want to read about in regards to family. One person said forgiveness. I thought this was a wonderful and fitting idea to be discussed as we start a brand new year.
When looking up forgiveness there are many definitions available, but the one that caught my eye was from dictionary.com: to give up desire or power to punish. How appropriate; For, if you think about it, any time you are hurt by a loved one, this overwhelming feeling of disappointment consumes you and you think “how dare they” or “how could they?” and for many, you simultaneously want this person or persons to either understand how much they hurt you and/ or want this person to go through a similar pain themselves so they can see how it feels. The latter is not as mature as striving to talk it out, but sometimes egos and stubbornness prevent a healthy conversation from ever happening. I feel the feeling of betrayal is the central issue at hand as the relationship between you and family should be the most sacred as “family” should mean unconditional love and compassion, but most importantly, trust. When a family member hurts you by doing something or saying something that crosses the line, that trust feels tainted and the compassion seems to be out of reach. With such betrayal, one can literally “strike a nerve” as your nervous system can become overstimulated with shaky hands, an increased heart rate, the impossibility of being able to sit still, the desire to pace your cage of rage and the urge to scream your guts out.
I feel that forgiveness is attainable for many situations and I will go on to discuss this point. However, let me get the not so fortunate reality out of the way. I feel sometimes forgiveness is merely given so that YOU can release the binding straps around your shoulders of what feels like a 200 lb sac of anxiety and pain… which, clearly I have had to do so personally. That type of forgiveness is given so that you can move on without holding on to any hate or ill feelings. You ultimately decide to forgive, but you also decide it’s necessary to part ways in order to live a stress free life. At that point there are no solutions but this one. In this scenario, the family member/s hasn’t changed in the many years you have known them and it got to a point where enough is enough. For me personally, it took 32 years to make the decision that I can no longer tolerate the inappropriate treatment from one of my family members. I won’t go into detail, but this wasn’t a rash decision for our relationship was never a happy one. That is not saying I will not always love this person and that I wish them the very best in life, for they are family, but we don’t need to be in each other’s lives at this point. And yes, this is a very sad situation. I hope that family members can always resolve their differences, as family should be cherished. Some people grow up without any family, so having family is truly a blessing. And yet, I suggest if anyone in your life only brings you sadness and anxiety and you constantly are at odds and there are numerous failed attempts in trying to reconnect where you step up and be the bigger person, well you have that decision to make. You can forgive them for all their trespasses they have done unto you, while loving them from afar. Or, you can hope that things change and keep pursuing a relationship even though you are continuously hurt and disappointed. This is your decision. Everyone needs to know though that stress can have a serious negative effect on your mental and physical self, so it becomes a question on whether or not your health can handle it.
Now most family situations are not as drastic as deciding whether or not you should keep a family member in your life. I feel that the biggest normal issue is that of miscommunication and misunderstandings. These can snowball and cause something that could have been easily hashed out into a gigantic issue to where there are fictitious accusations at play. The individuals involved have to spend most of their time knocking out things that had been created in each others’ minds versus the issues that actually transpired in reality. This happens a lot when family members do not live nearby and communication is already at a low, so assumptions are made and theories are created. Or this can happen quite often when someone is more comfortable to assume than to pick up the phone and have a discussion. Sometimes people think they “don’t want anymore drama” in their lives so they opt to not hold a conversation with whomever they are upset with. Ironically enough, it’s then that drama takes birth, created due to the lack of communicating. I have heard several different generations of people exclaim how much they are over the drama. However, what everyone is not seeing is that drama is feared in a way that people throw up their hands and relinquish any responsibility to have a conversation, thus adding to or creating the drama. What people need to work on is having a healthy conversation. That is learning to listen, to use “I statements,” such as “I feel hurt when” or “I get upset when,” and allowing the other person to explain their side with your willingness to place yourself in their shoes and vice versa. And, to be blunt, actually stepping off your high horse when the other person makes that first step when you were too timid or too proud to reach out yourself.
In addition, I have heard that people don’t attempt to clear up a misunderstanding because he or she doesn’t “want to ruffle any feathers.” So, they hold on tight to their questions and worries, which in turn keep themselves locked in a tense emotional state. I’ve seen to where these feelings come out in misplaced anger and wind up hurting a different relationship, one that doesn’t have anything to deal with why they were initially feeling so bad. This person buries these hurt feelings and push forward. Then, there is a completely separate issue with their loved one, and once again, this same individual is hurt. They push these feelings down as well. This person fills themselves with hurt feeling after hurt feeling, only allowing their sensitivity to become heightened and they will eventually become so bitter and mean that they will lose their ability to live a happy life. Do you know what could fix all of this? COMMUNICATION. Talk it out. Hash it out. Tell your truth. Allow for the other/s to tell their truth. People shouldn’t be afraid of their loved ones. We should all be fighting for the common goal and that is to have each other person in our lives and for us to shower each other with unconditional love. Isn’t that what family is for anyway?
My biggest pet peeve with these scenarios is someone’s inability to give their loved one the benefit of the doubt. I think it is even more hurtful when the person didn’t provide the hurt individual with any reasoning from past behavior to provide a validity to their new assumptions. If an occurrence transpires and it is confusing as to why your loved one would either do or take part in such said occurrence, simply ask them! But go into it with the knowledge in your heart and mind that this person most likely didn’t mean to hurt you. In more cases than not, someone’s actions simply have to do with what’s going on in their own lives and have nothing to deal with the people around them. On the flip side, if a family member comes to you with questions, then you should treat that with sensitivity and respect. You should try and see why this person would be coming to you with such concerns. I think one of the most substantial forms of disrespect would be to completely ignore the person who is coming to you, vulnerable and open. In my opinion, you could just spit on their face and you would create the same effect in that person, if that is what is desired.
Overall, forgiveness is so much more attainable if you can communicate with the family member/s that wounded you in some way. I feel that time can make things so much more difficult if you don’t stop and give that initiative to solve your problems by talking to your loved one. If you have tried to communicate and you have stepped forward on multiple occasions, then the ball should be in the other person’s court. If they never come forth, then you should dive deep into analyzing what forgiveness would mean to you. Sometimes, people are stupid and do stupid things and will not be as an adult as much as you would like for them to be. So, you can forgive them for you in order for you to not lose out on any valuable time with this person. If you do this, there can’t be a declaration of how much better you were than they were… you are signing an invisible contract that you are forgiving and putting it behind you.
Most importantly, we were granted a short amount of existence on this planet and some things aren’t worth the fighting. Stress can lead to loss of sleep, hair, happiness and can even cause deadly heart attacks. Solutions could be that you agree to disagree, and you move past the issue; That you talk it out until you and the other have a thorough understanding of what transpired and how to move forward without those unfortunate situations occurring in the future; Or for you to simply understand, love and forgive. I think too many people don’t appreciate who they have before them, those who provide them with love they’ve only known to be true. I think too many innocent bystanders have been pushed aside because someone won’t simply take the time to have a conversation. There are too many graves that are dug that spark an ability in the hearts of the loved ones left behind to finally open up and for them to cry out their regrets for not harnessing the opportunities they had over the years to just communicate with the person going six feet under. Harness those opportunities now. My suggestion is to please, for those individuals that crave to have a loved one in their lives that is now impossible to reach, please, give up the desire to punish… The desire to punish God, them, or yourself… I feel if you give up that desire then all can be forgiven.
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