On this Valentine’s Day, let me pose a provocative question: What is family?
The past couple of years, I have greatly considered what the concept entailed. Speaking on biological terms, family is a group of individuals connected on a genetic level; simply, a nuclear family. However, this definition is in turns inaccurate and insensitive to those who have been adopted by others or live in a “nontraditional” family.
Further, the idea that family can’t be questioned or criticized –no matter what–is prevalent in many households. It is also an idea I was raised with. And it can be an exceedingly harmful one.
I was raised with the idea that family came first; the family is blood. In other words, if a family member was hurting, we should support and prop them up. On the surface, this is completely sensible ideal to possess. But what if family is harmful? What if family does something that simply cannot be supported and must be called out, rather that supported?
In order to effectively love each other, we need to criticize and accept criticism, at the same time being able to discern when said guidance or criticism is harmful.
This is an extremely tough balance to strike. Here, loving others effectively without harming requires a delicate touch. An effective image is the idea of resetting a bone in order to effectively heal someone’s body. Sometimes we have to be honest and wound someone in order to effectively heal.
Further, looking at oneself in the mirror and accepting failure is an extremely hard concept to consider. We must be honest with ourselves before we are honest with others. This requires self-reflection, an act that is often neglected in the generally extroverted culture of the United States.
If we want to love each other, be direct, be truthful, and be supportive. In a healthy way.