This is not an easy post to write. To be honest, I’m not really sure where to start. Family relationships are so complicated, so emotionally charged.
I’m pretty lucky. My family gets together still and usually we don’t get into fights. (Hey, we’re not perfect.) Even my extended family is still in touch. The more people I meet the more I realize how incredibly rare that is.
Let me tell you a little of how my family has helped me grow, why it’s important in a successful life.
1. Family is where I encounter my worst side.
Issues involving family are emotionally heightened, so whatever my normal response would be gets multiplied by ten thousand. For instance, family disagreements taught me I can hold a grudge longer than anyone I know – something to work on. On two separate occasions, I was unable to interact with someone for the span of about a year because I was afraid of doing them physical violence. My anger over their actions just remained white-hot for that long.
2. Family is where I learn to be a servant.
My parent’s generation on both sides has modeled this for me. They take care of my aging grandmothers. That’s not a job that will be hired out until it’s medically necessary to do so. They take care of their siblings. They welcome new in-laws as if they’d always known them. You marry into this family and it’s as if they raised you – you are in. They take time to visit one another, even though most of us live hours away.
3. Family is where I learn my most important boundaries.
When I got married, my parents suggested we move out of state so we wouldn’t be unduly influenced by them. They struggled to set up appropriate boundaries with their families at the beginning of their marriage and didn’t want us to have the same problem. It was their way of saying, “Hey, don’t tolerate any intrusion on your marriage or your life together, even from us.”
Even though we haven’t moved away, I’m grateful they helped us understand what appropriate boundaries in marriage looked like.
I’ve also had to learn that, even though family can get away with more, I still have to enforce boundaries with them. I can’t think of a more miserable life than to be a slave to the needs and expectations of a dozen other people. So I’ve learned to give where I can, and then let my no, when I have to use it, be absolute. This allows me to go into family situations with an open heart instead of a guarded one, because I know my boundaries won’t be crossed. If they are, we simply leave and try again next get-together.
“What does family mean to you” is too big a question to answer. Instead, I wanted to ask, how has family helped you grow lately?
Read the rest of the Success Is series here: