When I was growing up, family was considered firstly to be my parents and siblings and then on outwards to include other relatives. It never occurred to me to view others in my community, or even broader as ‘family.’ There was also a strong message at the time that “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” This idea that ‘family’ comprised of only relatives and was therefore a fixed entity was widespread. Furthermore, what went on in families was considered their private business and others had no right to interfere, making ‘family’ firmly off limits in terms of closer scrutiny. This attitude continues to exist in the present day and still with a complacency and reluctance to look more deeply into what ‘family’ actually means and how it interlinks with other aspects of human life.
The dynamics of the family unit have certainly changed over time. These days many children grow up in single parent and blended family situations. There are also increasing numbers of grandparents and other relatives raising children. Same sex couples rearing children is another growing area and in Australia, the number of children in foster care keeps increasing yearly. Surrogacy and adoptee parents also co-exist with more traditional forms of child caring and rearing and family groups. Adult children are living with parents for years longer than in the past. Beyond the genetic descriptions of ‘family,’ people also often consider who’s in and who’s out of their ‘family’ along religious, political, ethnic, cultural, geographic and/or socioeconomic lines. This all suggests that the ‘family’ concept is much more dynamic and multidimensional than often first assumed.
As people move through the course of their life, the impact of their upbringing is massive. There are undoubtedly many wonderful qualities that are passed along in families from one generation to the next. The family environment is a primary teaching ground for children as they learn about life and relationships from those around them and they carry many of these values, ideas and beliefs into adulthood. The next generation of citizens is shaped, with standards set that contribute to the makeup of the fabric of society, wherever that person is living. Some may ask “So why is this topic even being raised: isn’t this all a good thing?” The answer to that is that it is not just the valuable qualities that are passed on, it is also the uglier aspects of human behaviour which we usually don’t like to be reminded about that often sprout unchecked because they originated within the largely unaccountable family setting.
By taking a wholistic view it can be seen that ‘family’ is a central background feature behind many social ills, yet seemingly there is a massive unwillingness to examine the concept in any detail.
Take for example, the fact that many individuals believe it is acceptable to behave abusively towards others if it is within the confines of the family unit. Given the central role of family in raising children, it’s reasonable to assume that the transition away from being loving and open towards others started early in life. Sadly, what such children were taught/experienced within their particular family is often then passed on, leading to the normalisation of intergenerational cycles of abusive behaviours continuing with little real accountability.
The illusions around family are exposed even more when we are prepared to stand back and honestly look at how ideals and beliefs around ‘family’ link to human behaviour worldwide. The number of refugees globally has exploded in recent years and includes many displaced children who are not accompanied by a parent or a guardian yet are in desperate need of care and protection. Who is their ‘family’? Who is responsible for protecting, nurturing and caring for them? Is it the government of the countries involved and their citizens – or the wider world? Similarly, how do our pictures of who is and isn’t family apply with other vulnerable populations such as those caught in human trafficking and/or paedophilia rings?
While these questions may cause discomfort, they do suggest that we can’t ignore looking at the part our individual views around ‘family’ have played in limiting our willingness to compassionately respond to the high prevalence of multisystemic abuse globally. They also raise questions about what we have been indoctrinated into due to our family beliefs and ideals; what’s allowable and what’s not and so forth as the following quote invites us to ponder on:
“The three basic tenets that found and make family true:
True family is about love;
it is not about abuse and control.
True family is about love;
it is not about surnames, blood, skin colour or genes.
True family is about love;
it is not an intellectual understanding, gathering or
the making from an egg or sperm.”
[Serge Benhayon, Esoteric Teaching and Revelations, Volume II, Ed. 2, p. 442]
When ‘family’ is reduced to surnames, blood, skin colour, genes, eggs or sperm, instead of love, it explains how what we do to each other in the name of ‘family’ is what fuels suffering – be it abuse, violence, domination, holding rigid expectations, isolation or exclusion.
When we experience, witness or repeat these elements in our own lives, we can collude with the status quo and ignore or dismiss them as being ‘just the way it is’ and further entrench the rot around family. Or we can start to make family about connecting with the inner heart that knows true love, and from there impulses us to live not blinkered, reluctant or wishful lives, but responsibly with awareness, understanding, compassion and joy.
When family is lived in this way our immediate family benefits, but even greater than this is the valuable contribution we are making to our fellow human global family through the expression of care and kindness on a daily basis. One thing is for sure: whichever investment we choose to make will either allow the harm to continue unchecked, or it will support universal family healing and wellbeing.
By Helen Giles, Social Worker, Townsville
The Corruption of True Teamwork
Family Defined by Quality
Parenting and Self-Care – Crashing the ‘Helicopter Parenting’ myth
Why do we feel so sad when we see abuse on the opposite side of the world to us? We can feel the connection to humanity, we can feel that we are all, deep down, the same, and all connected. But then we can easily turn a blind eye, especially when there is this concept of ‘family’ which makes us focus on those few who are our ‘blood family.’ The questions this raises around family really challenge my beliefs about family. I can see the tight hold that pictures of family can have on children. This was my experience too. I didn’t have the ‘perfect’ family and withdrew quickly as a child because I felt let down by the pictures of how they should be. Our current notion of family can really restrict who we love. Do we restrict it to a few or is our natural instint to actually not have these boundaries?
It takes a whole community to raise a family.
The illusion around ‘family’ is thick and sticky in such a way that we are entrenched in the ideals and beliefs believing them to be all that there is. But there is part of us that knows that there is ‘more’ and when this ‘more’ is expressed and felt it can be life changing.
How we have been raised and live with this false idea of what family is has caused a lot of damage as you show us here Helen. We have fragmented our lives and the world in ‘this is our family and you belong to us’ and ‘you are not from my family and thus you don’t belong to us’. I learned from young to not interfere in what was going on in other families, to accept things which we would not accept if this separation was not there. Absolute love is what is called for and goes right through this family illusion way of thinking.
In truth we are all family as the saying goes it takes a community to raise a child. I was having this discussion the other day, with family, in that it is everyones responsibility to live in such a way that is supporting the next generation and being a role model. When we look at the current state of the world and ask the question ‘what do we do, how is it going to change?’ such as we were. It changes with us. Every single person is the change.
Absolutely Vicky, I have come to realise how arrogant it is to expect everyone to change because of the pictures I hold, rather than changing myself first and being open to the changes that will bring.
Helen so well said, this version of family, the true one that you know to be true is what is there for all of us if we’re to drop our ideals of family really means.
Agreed, there is something about the reduction of considering family as only those who share your blood lines that diminishes the truth of who we are, where we come from and what we all have within us to offer each other.
Lucy, I cannot get my head around the sheer arrogance we all have, by this I mean that we all live on this planet there is no where else to go and yet we bicker, fight, abuse, rape, destroy, kill anything and everything, as though there is a limitlessness supply to our demands. How far down the road to total destruction do we all walk before we admit to ourselves and each other that actually we have got this the wrong way round and that it is only by all working together as a collective will we succeed in returning back to our origins, or as you say where we come from.
Helen, you have raised some great points, one we as a society could all do with considering more deeply. For me why is it that with family or those closest to us, those we live with, do we suddenly have license to treat them however we want? Why is it that I have seen people treat strangers better than family members? I know I have done this. Why is it that we ‘think’ things can stay behind closed doors? And more shocking why is it that we would want to essentially ‘fight’ or ‘be at war’ with those we hold dear and deeply love – it makes no sense what so ever but shows there is more at play than purely what we see with our eyes.
Yes well said and asked. We allow this to slide because it is ‘family’ but this causes very deep wounds that can change the trajectory of life from young.
I guess the other question that could be asked is if we are feeling this ‘And more shocking why is it that we would want to essentially ‘fight’ or ‘be at war’ with those we hold dear and deeply love’ then could the next question to be asked be ‘do I hold them dear and deeply love them?’ because in honestly asking this question and in being willing to go there much can be healed if we truly allow it.
So much plays out under the umbrella of family which wouldn’t be acceptable in any other situation.
Very true Julie and from a logical view point makes no sense.
This says to me whether family or not every person should be treated with decency, respect, care and love at the very least. Great blog.
Family or no family I feel it is first knowing and claiming our values and standards. For instance I am now at a point of my life where I will not accept abuse from anyone, ‘family’ or not. In our busy lives I feel that currently we do not give ourselves the space needed to truly reflect on this and claim what is important to us, how we want our relationships to be and what we absolutely will not accept in any relationship.
When we embrace and live the universal family, we become points of light for all those around us. We will eventually look like the Milky Way.
Steve you have touched on something that we do not want to consider and yet our ancestors knew as they built the Pyramids to remind future generations that we come from the stars we do not belong on this planet we call earth.
Family equals brotherhood and this can be felt with everyone
‘it is not about abuse and control.’ When we look at the amount of abuse in the world and that most happens within families it just shows us how much we have to learn, change and very much heal with regards to this.
Vicky to me it’s like being caught in a Spiders web, the consciousness of ‘family’ and all that entails is the web, the more we struggle the more we are entrapped. Is it our healing to learn to let go of the control, pictures, ideals and beliefs so that we can free fall from the web and not be entrapped by the false entitlement we think we have as ‘family’, that somehow we have a right to abuse each other under the guise of ‘family’.
When we grasp and live this truth there is no one we will not be prepared to love.
Loving another is not a decision that we make, love flows through us as a result of the choices that we’ve made.
I love that as yes we can love anyone and everyone equally and the more we do the more we love. We think we can direct love and only have it for ‘our’ people yet this means it is not truly love as love can never be for one person or group rather is for everyone.
In the culture I grew up in family was immediate blood relationships and the expanded understanding that family could be more was never talked about. This led to a situation of comfort where Life was only about how we were doing and never to interfere with how others chose to live. Making family about love first is glorious and everyday I appreciate my growing family of love
Yes and reminds us that whilst another is not being loved then there is work to be done. We are a one humanity after all, living on the most precious earth.
Family isn’t family if there is abuse or a feeling that something can be got away with just because it’s family. This isn’t true family at all. I knew this as a child and it was difficult to reconcile myself to what I knew to be true and what was actually happening in the family dynamics.
I feel it’s true to say that of all of the people in our lives, it is our family that we treat the most shabbily. It seems that if someone is a close family member then this somehow gives us the right to be able to treat them badly, that’s not to say that we don’t treat those outside our families badly, we do but to say that abusing our family members is something that we do without giving it much thought. And perhaps that’s why we don’t abuse people outside of our immediate family so much, because we are forced by ‘social etiquette to take a moment to think about it first.
Yes – and most abuse occurs within a family setting or with those closely acquainted.
And then it is still the question if it is not abuse when we do something nice or good, polite etc out of ‘social etiquette’ instead of it being our normal everyday quality of living that naturally is loving, respectful and caring for other people.
That’s a great point you make Alexis that we are not so abusive to people outside of our family circle as we are forced by ‘social etiquette to take a moment to think about our actions first. I have experience of this where someone was very angry and abusive towards their family but out in public they were so charming no one would have given a moments thought that the total opposite of charming was happening within the four wall of the house.
From the very start, our traditional view of family is a reduction down away from the truth – we are all equally connected and deserving of Love. And whenever we indulge in reducing the majesty of our world down, it invites other ill energies in to mess around as you show Helen. It’s not that we are to love our relatives less but that everyone is deserving of our adoration no matter their colour, language or origin.
The level of abuse that goes on within families is horrendous, and I’m not talking about the obvious child abuse and wife/husband beating, what about the jealousy from mothers to their daughters, jealousy between siblings. The dismissive attitude of children because they are young and don’t know anything, even though they are more connected and can read and sense everything that is going on in the house. What about the arguing and the sarcastic comments that we throw around at each other as adults, and the looks that could turn another into a pillar of salt. It’s time to realise that the family model as it is at the moment is not working for us and that we are raising our children up in a toxic environment. No longer can we just look at the extremes and call it as being dysfunctional but the lack of respect and genuine love and care for each other is contributing to the rot equally as the child abuse.
I wonder whether there is really an ‘inside and outside our families’, in the same way that I doubt whether anything can be contained ‘within these four walls’. Sure it would suit us nicely if what went on ‘inside’ our families, ‘inside’ our institutions, ‘inside’ our churches and in fact ‘inside’ anything at all was conveniently contained in a neat package of secrecy but the fact is we’re One United Whole and so there is no ‘inside and outside’ anything, there’s just the togetherness of Us.
Helen this is such a truthful and rock solid expose of what constitutes family, both true family and traditional family.
A broader brush stroke that includes all humanity certainly makes a greater model than what we have at the moment with all the turmoil we have world-wide, and this can start with simply relearning how to Truly-appreciate. Appreciation of our essences and the fact that we are all equal and this equality can also then be a part of how we appreciate, and that develops a deeper relationship with intimacy (not sexual), which is letting people in, so starting with self and the ensuing appreciativeness. Then working our way to deepen our broader family, by letting in our family-member and friends, then the broader community, which then opens us to letting all humanity in, in the most Loving way.
There is a lot of abuse that takes place under the umbrella of family. We may have a picture that we will protect the family no matter what but what exactly are we protecting.
I agree Julie. I have had a couple of conversations with people about the recent footage that has been shown on TV about the abuse that goes on in nursing homes. People have expressed their absolute horror at seeing footage of the elderly being mistreated and although I don’t condone the behaviour I have pointed out that exactly the same stuff goes on in our own families but it’s just that we don’t have cameras in our homes and no one talks about it but children get routinely screamed at, hit and worse, as do mothers and fathers. We are all absolute masters at covering things up but there will come a day when we will need to lift the cover and get honest about what’s truly going on in our homes.
There has been a lot of abuse hidden under the disguise of family, this along with many ills is to be exposed if we are truly to move on as society.
There is an unspoken law that is pretty much global and that is that you don’t ‘dob’ on family. If we viewed family as the collective whole of humanity then maybe we wouldn’t be so invested in protecting the handful of people that we happen to be related to by either blood or marriage because we would understand that the behaviour of one person effects everybody else.
Family is about love, family is about everyone when we make it about anything less it’s not real family.
…’connecting with the inner heart that knows true love…’ there is an exquisite simplicity to this, as well as an opportunity to change the world beyond our understanding. Thank you Helen.
‘When ‘family’ is reduced to surnames, blood, skin colour, genes, eggs or sperm, instead of love, it explains how what we do to each other in the name of ‘family’ is what fuels suffering – be it abuse, violence, domination, holding rigid expectations, isolation or exclusion.’ When we place as a foundation anything that is not love, in any walk of life, we are holding life to ransom.
When we reduce the family to a small stream or a brook and think we are IT, and pretend the oceans do not exist, how lost are we from the fact we are part of the one?
I like what you have to say Steve we have reduced ourselves so much we cannot see the beauty that we all are. And when someone does point this out rather than stop for a moment to consider this piece of information, we attack the person/ people who have delivered the message. I wonder if this is because we don’t want to know what we really know but won’t accept that we come from love and so therefore the pure truth is that we are love we are just not choosing to live the love we naturally are.
Since young I have always known that we are all equal and we are all one. Individuality just does not work and isn’t true. Making it about true love and the all is the only way to be and live.
When I was a teenager and I observed girls at school bullying the younger girls and treating them as inferior, because they had been treated that way themselves, I was disgusted. When we model a set of behaviours, that model is exactly what we get back. If we want a more loving society then we have to be more loving within it.
Do we have a picture of family that separates us from taking responsibility for the greater family of the human race, and does that irresponsibility contribute to the world we see before us? Thank you for bringing this to the fore so we can all consider what we bring to our greater family.
What if even seeing everyone in the world as family was still a few steps away from the truth? What if there is no such thing as family, even if it’s ‘global family’, what if there’s only One of Us, The One Unified Body of God?
Quite often the consciousness around family is that it is ok to abuse someone within it because they are ‘family’. It feels like we treat our families way worse sometimes than we would dream of treating a stranger, and yet we have accepted this as the norm.
It is great to talk about this. We have normalised abuse within families and this sets the standard for relationships very very low. Why do we treat the people we allegedly love most so poorly?
‘The family environment is a primary teaching ground for children as they learn about life and relationships from those around them and they carry many of these values, ideas and beliefs into adulthood.’ As a society we need to appreciate that everything we see in the world that we either don’t like or do, stems from the immediate family unit. We need to be aware of how important a breeding ground it is for the health or ill health of society. Focusing on the detail and how we are within the family is really important, but most of all how we as individuals treat ourselves and how then that impacts on those around us.
I agree with you and I have a colleague that calls their children not by their given names but just as their Kid. So for example their kid is sick, I not even know it’s name; I personally find this highly disdainful as this seems to reduce the child and surely must have a negative impact on how they feel about themselves and the world around them as they grow up.
So many of us try and teach our kids to respect and love others whilst we dogmatically disrespect ourselves and treat ourselves shabbily. We haven’t yet worked out that how we treat ourselves is the absolute cornerstone for how we will treat everybody else. So yes we can mouth the words ‘treat others with respect’ but it will simply be an empty movement of the mouth without the everyday movements of self-love to back it up.
Thank you so much for writing this article Helen. The concept of family is indeed evolving. With the breakdown of the nuclear family we now seek refuge elsewhere but without the understanding of and Livingness of the tenets of True Family we get lost in the abyss and the abuse continues.
‘the number of children in foster care keeps increasing yearly.’ Over the last few years in the UK there are now advertisements on billboards about being a foster carer with how much money a foster carer will get per week for looking after a child. This alone tells us 1. that how we are within our families and indeed our lives is not going great and 2. what are our values and priorities when we are putting out adverts focusing on how much money someone would get paid weekly when looking after children. It seems this is not putting or making it about looking after the child first and also shows what a desperate situation we are in and how many more children are now in it need care.
Growing up in the British Army we as children had many people we would call aunt and uncle and for us this was normal. It never entered our heads that these people who we thought were family were not related by blood.
While we continue to see ourselves as individuals we will fail as a society. We are not individuals we are all one and the same, we are made of the same matter as the universe …fact. We have forgotten that we come from the universe and this allows the greatest abuse to take place because we are led to believe that we are just humans. We have narrowed our lives into such smallness when actually we are greater than we could ever believe we could be.
Whilst we may believe that family is relative only to the nuclear unit, it is clear that our hearts tell us otherwise. When I was a child some of my family’s most content moments were when we have friends to stay and where we all sat round the meal table together, to gather and share and discuss. The joy in the connection and the deepening of that connection was felt by us all and at those times there was no delineation in the love that was felt by us all for each other. To the heart there is no demarkation in the love that is felt and expressed whether you happen to share the same genes or not.
I remember those times as well, family was community and this was lived most when there were really good times or really bad times, we seemed to forget it in the middle so that it became our normal. Conversations like these could open the door for a stunning blended family to be the norm.
I consider those I work with as part of my family, often I see them more than I do my blood family! I love spending time with other students as well and I consider them and my friends family. It’s a lovely feeling rather than what I used to associate with family: hurts and resentment.
Yes – in the old days I would harbour the hurts that got triggered in my family, using friends as a way of dealing with them. This no longer happens – everyone I know feels like family and there are no hurts left, having taken responsibility for them. To go from the narrowness of feeling like I only had a small family to feeling like my family is so rich with 100s in it and of people that I dearly dearly love, has increased my joy in life a thousand fold!
Leigh I am also incredibly fond of the people I work with. I feel a real warmth and affection for them and therefore my actions always (well nearly always…..) carry the intention of supporting them and nurturing them as best as I can.
Like so many other words, the word ‘family’ comes loaded with connotations and we then fit life in to match our pre set notions. There is a natural freedom, flow and truth to life that we don’t see or allow because of our beliefs and pictures. We limit ourselves and our experiences incredibly as a result of this process. How many of us have felt deeply for another but have ruled it out just because we ‘don’t know them very well’ or that they ‘don’t come from the same cultural background’ as us?
” fellow human global family” When we open our hearts and minds to being responsible loving members of a global family we become aware that many of the divisions and barriers that we hide behind keep us all in separation from the love and brotherhood that we all naturally are.
I agree Mary, it’s us that are cutting ourselves off from the love that we are, no one else is to blame despite the fact that we have a rather ugly habit of constantly blaming everyone but ourselves. Boy we’ve got a hide, not only do we choose to distort and scramble life to such an extent that it’s unrecognisable but our bony finger is permanently pointing the blame at everybody but us.
Are we the only family on the tree of species that treats our other members with the disdain you have described? We are not the biggest, fastest or strongest but still think we have the right to control others. Who are we in comparison to the universe, but a partial trying to go home?
When you mention refugees and displaced children and ask ‘who is their family?’, it becomes abundantly clear that our narrow model of blood family and its associated ideals and beliefs s failing us dismally.
That struck me too Gabriele, I felt that we let down the most vulnerable in the community because we assess who are our responsibility and who are not. Sadly these situations arise because of mans inhumanity to man, so perhaps it is time to consider the family of humanity we are all part of and stop looking the other way in the micro effect and deny the ripple effect in the macro.
And when we identify those who are in our family then by default we are identifying everybody that isn’t.