Family is More than DNA

DNA vs Family

Done your personal DNA Search yet? I know a few people who have. Most say they’ve been surprised to find out they’re not what they thought. For my part, I’d rather not know the science. There’s a family history passed down to me from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and older siblings that’s precious. Their stories held me spellbound as a child. Still do. Wouldn’t want to mess with that kind of legacy. But most family histories are complicated.

The stories I write have a lot to do with family differences and secrets, and a variety of family issues. As for myself, I grew up in a large family. Six of us kids, plus Mom and Dad. I also had five children of my own, as well a borrowed one or two from time to time. I’m familiar with how difficult it can be to maintain connections, and peace, amid the helter-skelter chaos. The human behavior and psychology I’ve studied suggests it’s inevitable. Issues will exist in any group of people. No matter how large or small our numbers. When people live in close proximity every day for extended periods, like years, we are bound to disagree. 

Family Issues

Family differences often arise over the smallest things. Teen Terri left personal belongings out and someone else used them. Brother-in-law Bob has a habit of not flushing. Dad occupies the main TV at all hours of the day and night so no one else gets to enjoy their shows. Then we bicker at each other over the problems. We snap and bite like animals because, well, it’s just easier than reasoning and compromise. Doesn’t matter what it is. Small pet-peeves become giant vicious beasts consuming family peace. Why? Because people don’t talk things out with respect.

Or part of our legacy may include family members hiding secret hurts. Driving them deeper each year, not willing to expose their pain or sorrow out of fear. Fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment. Fear of causing hard feelings, or maybe just fear of facing their demons. We all have them. Inner demons. The things we don’t want to bring out into the light because they’re just too darn ugly. It hurts too much to share them. And sharing a demon feels like spreading its venom on to others.

Maintaining Family Peace

So, here’s the hard part, sometimes maintaining family peace requires upsetting it a little first. Sometimes it means digging deep into those hurts, or simple disagreements. Expressing our pain, or fear, and letting others express their own. While at the same time we need to practice the willingness to swallow our pride and admit it when we are the cause. Despite the discomfort or embarrassment, we need to start somewhere. We begin by creating a foundation of open discussion, fresh starts, and mutual respect.

But always, when bringing up hard feelings, we should do it with regard for the other person’s feelings, especially with family. They are, after all, our blood, our kin, our true first tribe. And if we can do it in way that is not accusing, simply relating our point while avoiding “you statements, those feelings may be preserved.  It’s a matter of saying what needs to be said with dignity. Letting the other person save face. It’s also about halting the chaos long enough to sit down and talk.

Most importantly, it’s about facing the issue without bringing up the past. Yes, you may have had to ask the same thing many times. But is it worth the anger, hurt, and depression we often sink into to make a point? When it comes to family blowups, do we have to rant and rave about the number of times we’ve faced the issue before?

Passing On Family Stories

The interesting thing about all those family relationship issues, all those things that have required peace-making efforts, is that they add to the layers of our stories. And one of the oldest and arguably best ways of passing on stories is by word of mouth. Telling them over and over again to each other. To our children, to anyone who wants to listen. To anyone we bring into our circle and extend the title of family to.

There is something healing in the process of the telling, and retelling. There is also the old adage about those refusing to learn from history being doomed to repeat it. So, what we hear and learn from each other as family, will help us remember our collective past. And thereby learn and grow from it all.


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