“When we fully understand the brevity of life, its fleeting joys and unavoidable pains … the consciousness of it should make us more kindly and considerate of each other. ” ~Clarence Darrow
Recently, as I was going through the news feed on one of my social media pages, I came across a Facebook friend who is more of an acquaintance in real life. I had noticed several things posted from her over a period of days with her family. I know that she posts things with her family often throughout the year, so this wasn’t just holiday cheer. Her daughter had just gotten out of jail, and this mother was helping her daughter surprise her own two children with her holiday homecoming. The daughter popped out of a large Christmas present, and my eyes filled with tears as her two young children fell into her arms. The next time I saw something posted from this friend was the morning after Christmas. First, she shared a silly thing her toddler was doing and then a funny hospital story involving several family members. In fact, there were family members in every story. I noticed one of the comments left at the bottom of the story by a reader: “You share everything as a family. Good times, hard times, sad times, and joyful.” Clarence Darrow’s words are there, as this family has allowed the joys and pains to make them more kindly and considerate of each other.
It isn’t always that way, though. A close friend went through a difficult time with a child and was greeted by a family member with the comment “I guess you’re pretty ashamed of her, huh?” My friend was not at all ashamed. Where was the kindness and consideration? Where was the acknowledgement for the brevity of life? After all, if life is brief, we should make the most of it.
Yesterday, you might have been condemning the errors of your son’s ways, your niece’s choices, your granddaughter’s bad decision. That was yesterday. I will never say that you should support bad choices of the people you love; you shouldn’t. I will never say that you should enable someone to continue on a path of poor choices; you shouldn’t. I will always say that you should encourage where it is needed and love where you are able; you should.
Not only do we conveniently skirt issues that make us uncomfortable, we sometimes avoid people whose issues make us uncomfortable. I’m not talking about people you don’t enjoy being around, I’m talking about people whose issues you don’t want to be around. Maybe this is why the family I spoke of has made such an impression on me. I don’t know how many friendships they have outside of the family, but it is plain to see that they have many within the family. Do you?
Sometimes, we find friends who are like family, which is a treasure because sometimes family doesn’t know how to be a friend. Seeing so many fractured families, I recognize that it can be difficult to remain friends, but what if that became your goal? What if instead of seeing the negatives, the mistakes, the shortcomings, and perhaps a few embarrassments, you could re-focus to see that this is your family? Who knows why were knit together as we were, but we were, and so we should remain. I would say to leave out your ex-spouse, but if it is the parent of your children their friendship becomes imperative on some level. I don’t have to like someone to speak well of them. I don’t have to respect someone to not belittle them. And sometimes, a second quote becomes necessary:
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
I love old wisdom like Roosevelt’s. Somehow, when I happen upon the words of people who lived before I was born, I think the words are even better, as is the wisdom. The problems of the world haven’t changed. One hundred years ago, people wished their kids would have made better choices, their spouses would have been more attentive or less abusive, and that everyone would think them successful.
The problems haven’t changed, but I often believe we, as a nation, have become less forgiving of others’ mistakes, less accepting of others’ shortcomings. I believe that, until I see families who are like the one in the opening of this article. They remind me that it’s ok to take our children and grandchildren just as they are, allowing them to suffer consequences and loving them right through it.
Who have you judged? What member of your immediate or extended family have you condemned to the netherworld because their choices didn’t suit you? Heck, I can’t even begin to tell you how to suffer through rotten personalities–I’m still working on that one in my own life, but personalities have little to do with choices, and choices don’t necessarily reflect the character of the person. Whether it is a child or an adult, our job as family is to love and encourage.
In my “Freedom in ’15” goal for 2015, I am hoping to remind myself often of the importance of allowing the joys and pains to simply be a part of my life, drawing us closer instead of pushing us apart. In my family, there has been great support for others as they’ve struggled; love has been evident. I wish that for your family, too. Allow those you love, family or friends, to lead difficult lives and love them well. Allow yourself to experience fleeting joys and unavoidable pains, and become more kindly and considerate of each other. 2015 is here, and the opportunities for change belong to you and to those you know.