I know some (very few) folks whose families are kind, supportive, loving and basically the kind of family we think of when we think of Norman Rockwell paintings, and the American Dream. And I know some (the majority of my friends) whose families are a collection of foibles, odd opinions and sometimes destructive behaviors – scattered and combative – taking sides and often ejecting someone from the group for being who they are, rather than doing anything truly “unpardonable”.
I am happy to know that some families can actually exist cohesively, lovingly, and supportive of each other. It gives me hope in humanity at large.
But my experience is that most families – the biologically linked ones – are not all “Ozzie and Harriet” sweet and loving. I qualify that with “in my experience” because I am hoping that somehow the loving families outnumber the dysfunctional ones, but I suspect it is the other way around.
What is more disconcerting, and difficult to help my friends through, is that the pain of rejection from one’s biological family seems to cut straight to the core of one’s being. When love is given to a stranger and they reject it – it hurts; but not in the way I have witnessed a biological family’s rejection, hurts.
In both cases it causes the person’s self-worth to be damaged, but your family also is part of your identity (in most cases) and so because we humans are hard-wired to want to belong to a group – and the first group we feel we belong to is our family – it sets many adrift in a sea of uncertainty – about who they are, what value they have and bring, why they even exist.
Some people turn to religion for that feeling of unconditional love and belonging. Some join various groups for some level of support that feels close to love. Some cave in on themselves believing they are dirty or worthless or both.
I don’t have any answers for fixing this. I wish I did. All I can do is offer my friendship as a chosen family member. My friends know that I care about them as individuals. I don’t want to mold anyone into something or someone they are not. I want them to be comfortable in their own skins. I am happy when they are successful in something they are doing; and sad for them when life throws a monkey wrench into things; and outraged for them when they are treated unfairly or harshly or when they are insulted. I hurt for them when they are hurt.
I don’t think it takes much to be a loyal friend and chosen family member – it just means being there. Supportive. Accepting. You don’t always have to agree, you just have to be open to hearing a different perspective.
Maybe even thinking about this will help a little to open all of our hearts.