In our country there are entire families who will suffer through a severe issue that eventually severs family relationships for many years. Eventually, someone might tentatively extend an olive branch, and another will cautiously reach out to accept it. Filled with anxiety, dread and hope, the family will then arrange to meet together for the first time in a long time.
As everyone smiles and talks about a united future together, the past will never be brought up in the discussion. No attempt will be made to understand another’s point of view, no misunderstandings clarified, no apologies made. The issue will be left untouched, leaving important questions unasked and unanswered. Nothing will be finally understood, forgiven, and put to rest. Therefore, free-roaming imaginations will be permitted to misinterpret everyone’s future behavior.
In other words, the dirt of the past is swept under the rug – out of sight, hopefully never to be seen or heard from again. But the problem is this; dirt is still dirt, even lying unseen under the family living room rug. It doesn’t just magically disappear. Nor does it somehow lose its power to be just what it is - ugly, hurtful, and always underfoot, with the ability to cause more misunderstandings and conflict in the future.
So much safer, in the long run, for the family members to meet, greet, sit down together and begin the awkward process of getting everything out in the open. Always talking and listening with this in mind: “It is a mighty thin pancake that only has one side.”
It is very difficult to try to understand the other person’s point of view when you are unwilling to listen with an open mind and a willing heart. And don’t let it become “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” The discussion needs to include thoughts, emotions, and fears. That is real and honest communication – and given time, it can heal a family who is sick of the hurting and is willing to forgive and reconcile.
Difficult? Sure it is. Along with scary. But well worth the effort. Ask a family who did that hard, scary work and is once again a caring and loving bunch. A bunch that has learned some hard lessons. a) Try to always communicate openly and fairly, unless you are willing and ready to suffer the long-term pain of a family split. b) And if a split does happen, be willing to set aside pride and assumptions that the other person is deliberately and totally in the wrong. c) Accept that you may not be sinless in this family crisis. You ain’t Jesus Christ. d) Forgive. Everyone including yourself, for your part in the entire mess.
Family is too precious a commodity to give up easily. Think long and hard before you make the decision to angrily pack up your long-suffering pride, gather up your self-righteous skirts, and simply walk away.