Like most things in my life, I differ from many other people in my feelings about what ‘family’ means. I’ve been lucky, my folks were caring and loving and thankfully my Father believed in ‘tough love’. He had a quiet way of delivering his values which were based on, “Always love you, but don’t always love what you do.” It was, in many ways the most impeccable definition of parental care one could have.
He had a potent ability to separate emotion from behaviour. He knew, in an uncanny way when I was about to venture into a behaviour pattern which may send me down the wrong pathway and he knew how to manage me, guiding me out of trouble and into a safer place. Sure he was tough but I never knew anything but love from both my folks and I thank God for that.
While families are often taken for granted, I believe they are the sum total of our learned behaviour and why we do what we do stems from our parents and families input. Culture is a powerful dictate. Pressured by a silent haze of influence, behaviour is impacted by the way things happen in our families. Often unaware and like a sponge we take on the mantras of politics, opinion, thinking and values, which are so much apart of our family’s behaviour.
How many times have we heard people say, “I sounded just like my Father” or, “I swore I’d never do what my Mother did”. All indicators of our awareness of their influence. I agree of course that as we grow we learn to recognise the origins of our behaviour and often modify them to become individuals but we cannot deny the influence of family on who we are.
Some time ago, I observed that a friend of my son had completed a 360O turn around in his political opinions. Having known him since childhood I watched this young man move from a conservative leaning, which was almost directly parallel to his parents thinking, to a more socially persuasive stance where he saw the conservative parties as the bearers of doom. He had made that evolution based on new opinions and the separation of he and his family to married life.
So why, you ask, would you write a blog about families?
We live in a hostile world, one which often appears hopeless. Where terror reigns and politics knows no answers. Where ego rages and each one of us wants more than we need. How, we ask, “Can we, as individuals make a difference?” I believe the answer lies in our families. If they shape behaviour then it is incumbent on all of us to behave differently. To value life and to exercise tolerance and pluralism.
Yes, we would all like to fix the world and as a collective we can. The answers do not lie with our politicians. Let’s face it, they have never had the answers and in my opinion they tend to make matters worse.
Our antecedents is shaped by our culture which in turn is sculpted by families. It is where we are taught love and forgiveness, good from evil, right from wrong. Anything else is just a bandaid. No matter who you are there is some kind of family influencing you.
My message to my son and his generation is this. ‘Know you know’ and understand that, this is enough. The power to influence others lies in our witness of what we feel. Be courageous and when it’s time to trust your heart listen to it. As my Father would say, “No one can make you feel bad, unless you give them your permission.”