In my first article in this two-part series, I suggested three tips that can help one to avoid collisions between family members. In this article, I propose three further tips, which are not so much techniques or formulas, but rather aids to cultivating and discovering a positive climate and posture toward your family members:
4) High Regard
This is sometimes termed “respect,” but that can be misunderstood as subservience. Whatever the relationship – child to parent, parent to child, between spouses, etc. – a key element of right relationship when engaging with another is to ensure that you are holding them in high regard. We can understand this easily as we naturally fall into the inverse, readily thinking less of another, holding them in derision and contempt, and devaluing them. And we are vocal about it, if only in the tone of our voice or our innuendo.
Nevertheless, you should also understand that this high regard is not delusional – it is not simply the Emperor’s New Clothes.
The prophet Malachi encourages fathers to discover their sons (Mal. 4:6). A son takes what you give him and he brings something new that is beyond you – he is supposed to be better than you. If you can see this, then you will stop fighting to make him just like yourself. You will stop being disappointed when he does not outwardly display the same abilities as you, or the interests you would expect.
Moreover, children need to discover their parents – each of them in a different way. They are not perfect, but what were they supposed to be? What was God’s dream in making each of them? How is the Image of God in them striving to be seen? That is your inheritance. Make sure that you get all of your inheritance. When your eyes are opened to this, instead of colliding and struggling against your parents, you will increasingly come to value them.
5) Good Will
Having good will toward another is to want something good for them, to want them to have more – and this is perhaps more elusive than we admit. We typically look out for ourselves when we engage with another. We are self-protective, want our own way, and think we deserve preferential treatment. Being so engrossed in ourselves doesn’t allow us to give our attention to the welfare of another. Therefore, one of the secrets of loving engagement is to set ourselves aside. Together with the previous trait, high regard can provide us with a clear way of defining love in tangible terms – in contrast to the vague and emotionally-dependent popular notion of love. If you are acting toward a family member with high regard for them and good will for their betterment, then you are loving them.
6) A Culture of Love and Affection
Define a culture of love and affection in your family. It needs to be known that you assume and anticipate that everyone in the family is pursuing love in all of their relationships, and that love means high regard and good will. Add to that affection – that is, the expectation that every family member is greatly valuable and that increasing warmth and connection is a goal and pursuit of the family in its functioning. “Collisions” tend to not appear in such an environment because the members have other-centered goals rather than self-centered ones.
Formalize Your Commitment
You can really help to create such an environment in your family by formally stating it, possibly in a family meeting, a mission statement, or perhaps a plaque in which these things are stated. I know that taking such concrete action requires considerable initiative and can be awkward. But… show leadership; do something that is hard and requires effort. If this is understood, you will see evidence of it in all of your celebrations together, such as birthdays, Christmas, vacations, etc.
Christian Counseling to Build Your Family
As a Christian counselor, I have seen that sometimes a family needs a neutral place in which to sort all of these things out – and to see what the playing pieces actually are. If you would like to consider Christian counseling to help you with this, call my office for an initial visit.
“Walking Away,” Courtesy of Korry B, Freeimages.com; “Park Hortus Leiden . . .” courtesy of David van derr Mark, FCC (CC BY-SA 2.0)