Family is the beginning of our journey in life – they provide us with the foundation for us to live as individuals while also building the foundations of how we are part of the greater whole of Life. In Part 1 of We are Individuals Part of a Whole in our discussions of The Balance, we discussed that family is a building block to our balance with the Higher Power, Earth, the lives around us and ourselves. While in a perfect world, we would all still have our families together in the view of a loving Mother and Father who love each other, loving siblings, and what have you.
Today, sadly, there are many families broken over various reasons: kicking a son/daughter out of the house because they are LGBTQ, disowning a family member for converting to a different faith, a husband divorces a wife for someone half the age, child and sex enslavement, war, famine and beyond. The concept of “family” has also changed where it’s no longer a solidified mother-by-blood, father-by-blood, and so on. A family could be anything combination of parental figures, sibling figures, and what have you.
Returning to the way family was once constructed to be in society may no longer be feasible due to untold damages wrought in the pasts of many. Be that as it may, Charles Darwin comes to mind on adaptation, “[It] is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.“
The social and cultural definitions of “family” have changed. A family may have two fathers, two mothers, one father, one mother, a community of men and/or women taking turns being the mothers and fathers of multiple kids while others work or the father/mother in blood passed away. The definition and construct of family is no longer solidified in blood, in my perspective. In today’s world, a family could be anything.
Who We Are Together Makes Us A Family
Through out the Christian Bible, Jesus continually calls everyone his brother and sister. There are Native American Tribes who also claim we are all brothers and sisters. In different biological studies, we are all connected in our DNA and are related in one way or the other. Although there is great conflict in the Middle East currently, leaders in the region call others within their Faith “Brothers and Sisters.” This abstraction of family and the different definitions in the religions of the world and in the different sciences have created numerous definitions of the term “family” to the point where family can mean anything and nothing at the same time.
As we discussed in “We are the Connection”. different people from different parts of the world can have different experiences that influences their connection to God/Higher Power, The Earth, and all Life Around us. In those experiences, we also see individual perceptions of what a family is and there is no clear definition of what a family should be. Some may see family as something to be envied while others see family as something to grow. Others may see family as just another statistical measure to keep people asking, “How can I Make Money?” as we discussed in Money is Not God – Only God is God and The Dark Side of Debt.
In Part 1 of We are Individuals Part of a Whole, we also asked questions about the current connections to our families and how to grow them. What happens when a family was destroyed chasing the dollar to answer “How can I make money” all the while seeing different organizations of people calling themselves a family, unrelated by blood? What happens when family was torn apart by addiction, war, famine? What happens when a family is divided over what to call the Higher Power and what path to take to finding peace/the balance?
I find it begins seeing who we consider to be our family. Who we are together makes us a family. My family was nearly destroyed by another’s addition, divorce, health ailments, faith affiliations, and what is considered to be true. While I won’t go into detail, my family has recovered and my mother is still my mother, my father my father, my brother my brother, my sister my sister, and my cousins my cousins and vice versa.
If you consider your family to be those who you were born into, then so be it. If your family is your neighbors while your mother and father by blood are three thousand miles way in a different city or have passed this life, then that is your family. If your family has people who took you in when you were younger due to war and famine separating you from your mother and father in blood, then that is your family. Family is no longer solidified in blood, it is solidified in love and forgiveness.
It is sad to say that many families in blood have been destroyed due to various of reasons. When a close family member of mine stole a wedding ring from my parents and sold it to buy heroin years ago, it devastated my mother and she did not know if she could forgive them; however, due to her strong beliefs in Jesus and the power of forgiving, she forgave him and instead of holding hate she offered love and help for them. Now, this family member has been clean for four years and has a partner that was once an orphan, a beautiful interracial child, and a steady job to support their family.
We did not think our family that was once destroyed by heroin would recover. While it is not the same as it was prior to the addiction, we all still love each other no matter what. This love started in teachings of Jesus in our family; however, this love is also alive due to the compassion we have for one another. When I needed help moving to my new home, my parents more than happily offered not because they felt obligated to as my mother and father, but they did so out of love for their child.
Just because this is a happier resolution to families that were destroyed, it is sadly not the case for others to have the same results when their families were destroyed by any number of things. Some families quoted Leviticus on homosexuality rather than Jesus on love for all brothers and sisters and kicked out sons and daughters who were LGBTQ from their homes. Some families kicked out their sons and daughters for their heroin addiction and now they wander the streets of New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles as zombies, looking for their next fix.
To further our connection and the balance we have with the Higher Power, The Earth, and Life around us, we must first look into ourselves to see where we stand and how to improve our balance and connection. Family is a foundation to ourselves and we are a foundation to our family. With who we are together making us the families we have, forgiving one another and helping those in their time of need not only strengthens our connections to each other as a family, but also to the Higher Power, the Earth, and Life around us.
“Whoever is patient and forgives, verily, that is among the matters of steadfast determination.” Islam, Surat Ash-Shura 42:43
“Peter approaching asked him, ‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times’” Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.’ Christianity, Bible, Matthew 18:21-22
“To practice forgiveness is the true fast, good conduct and contentment.” Sikhism, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, pg. 223. “So erase your duality and hold tight to forgiveness and you will not have to endure the torture of karma or religious rituals” Sikhism, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, pg. 343.
“To understand everything is to forgive everything.” Buddhism, Buddha.
“He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
““When you don’t forgive you release all the chemicals of the stress response…Each time you react, adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine enter the body. When it’s a chronic grudge, you could think about it twenty times a day, and those chemicals limit creativity.” Dr. Frederic Luskin.
Rebuilding a Family and Forgiveness
It took a while for me to forgive my family member for what happened with their heroin addiction; however, it takes more strength to forgive than it does to hold onto a grudge. A grudge ways you down while forgiveness brings you up. Forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings according to Greater Good Magazine.
Throughout history through faith, science, and our humanity, forgiveness has been taught consistently in varying forms. Whether you are more on the side of understanding the teachings of forgiveness through your faith or need empirical studies from psychologists or sociologists, forgiveness brings comfort to the soul and mind, allowing your mind and heart to work more as a team, as we discussed in We Are the Connection.
No matter what you define as your family now, if it is your neighbors, your family by blood, or your adopted family who took you in after being orphaned or through war/famine, your family is a building block in your individuality and your part in the world. Forgiving transgressions, releasing negative feelings, and feeling at peace with your life allows you to grow and maintain your connection to the Higher Power, the Earth, and all life around you. I found more of my connection and balance when I forgave my family member for taking my mother’s wedding ring for heroin. We are now closer than what we were and I help take care of their child out of love.
When you release the negativity through forgiveness, you can find ways in rebuilding your relationships with your family. If a family member was kicked out due to their sexual orientation, faith affiliation, find ways to allow them back home, release the negativity, and find ways to rebuild the bond you have with them. We are all here on this world for different reasons and our paths intertwine for many different reasons. Accepting the family you have and growing the connection you have with them only paves a road for the peace, the happiness, and the balance you may be looking for.
If you found that you adopted a new family and still hold negativity towards the family that may have kicked you out or if you lost them in death, find forgiveness in your heart to accept the family you have now and the family you had then – they made you who you are now and they will continue to influence who you will be. Holding a grudge and not forgiving pass transgressions will only inhibit the connection and the balance in you. I learned this the hard way from the addiction of a family member, but this lesson does reap the harvest of peace once the seed of forgiveness is planted and has grown.
Be well and be safe.