COMMENTARY: Making the Best of Family Relationships

For most of us, there’s something both wonderful and worrisome about large family gatherings. On the good side, we often can experience real pleasure in spending time with relatives with whom we have so many common memories. What’s more, being with parents, siblings, and cousins who have known us since childhood often helps us see ourselves more clearly without pretensions or illusions of self-importance. Finally, shared family history and the ties of blood and marriagecan create a tribal sense of identity and belonging that’s comforting.

Yet few families are able to avoid the rifts and feuds caused by unpaid loans, unreturned favors, unfulfilled requests for help, broken promises, or careless or cruel comments or gossip. Although we think we should love everyone in our family, we often don’t. Many of us have to struggle against the wisdom of the old adage “familiarity breeds contempt.”

But in a world so filled with throwaway and transitory relationships, we should more highly prize the stability and strength of family ties. In dealing with family, we have a greater, not a lesser, obligation to avoid unkind, insensitive, and hurtful remarks that can spawn resentments and grudges. We need to monitor the tendency to feel competitive or envious and, instead, take pride and pleasure in the success of any family member.

Some of your most enduring and endearing friendships will come from your family.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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