Studies Show increasing evidence that one specific trait can keep a family functioning: Forgiveness

The family unit is as old as the living. Most would argue the closest, emotionally invested family unit is that of the homosapiens. We human beings are incredibly attached,( especially when we share nationality, ) to our respective families. Likewise, we tend to live longer lives when we keep family members close to us; as opposed to keeping those people outside or our family, like our friends, in our inner circles. Due to relation we feel naturally connected to our parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, and grandparents.

As we grow we form even closer bonds and spend more and more time with certain people. While that seems fairly obvious, what is less obvious is the unadulterated facts and numbers that we tend to ignore.

Odds are that you are more likely to be hurt by someone close to you than you are by someone rarely involved in your life. Humans are not perfect, in truth, we are flawed in our decisions, and our covetousness. Our selfish ego’s stand against all opposition. Whether blood bonded or not, we will move even our own mothers out of our way when we want something bad enough. We do our best or worst, to fulfill our desires. In order to get our way, we often get into the way of the one’s closest to us.  Call it collateral damage, if you will.

Interesting paradigm: if a human is hurt by someone they trust they consider that transgression to be all the more heinous an act than if a random stranger did the same to us.* This is true with every offense except rape.*

Empirical Fact: Pre-reproductive aged girls are more likely to be raped by family members than by anyone else.

Sum of the Matter: We must teach ourselves and our loved ones that the victim of a predator, whether that predator is in our family or not, was wrong and must be held accountable for their actions.

Your Actions Directly Affect Not Only Your Family They Affect Your Mental Health and Stability

It is safe to say that there are those who believe their coming and goings, their doings or complacency, their overall behaviors, have little to no effect on their loved ones. This could not be further from the truth.

The amazing compilation of studies titled, The Handbook of Forgiveness, edited by, Everett Worthington Jr., gives us many insights. Specifically significant are the findings on how important forgiveness  is to family functionality.

In Chapter 14, Cynthia L. Battle, and Ivan W. Miller explain thoroughly the concept of forgiveness and families. While they acknowledge that the studies of the act of forgiveness, and in actuality, the studies on families as a whole are still in there infancy. That being said, they identified 10 specific actions that necessitate forgiveness:

  • unequal treatment of siblings by one or both parents
  • failure of a parent to protect a child from harm
  • hurt feelings from divorce and/or remarriage
  • lack of parental acceptance of a spouse or romantic partner

             (particularly in interracial or same-sex relationships)

  • irresponsible or dishonest financial decisions made by a family member
  • problems associated with a family member’s addiction or mental illness
  • inequitable distribution of household tasks
  • repeated instances of broken family commitments or prolonged absences
  • disagreements regarding care of an ill or elderly relative
  • disputes regarding funerals and estate settlement

Do, Not, Quit

The Results

The results were that the families who practice forgiveness in  the 10 areas listed above, achieve an overall greater feeling of acceptance. They also confessed a heightened desire to express themselves honestly with their families.

The results for the individuals that made up these families is empirical and encouraging. Individuals that have a greater tendency to forgive those close to them, after being hurt by those same people, are likely to experience higher, longer-lasting quality relationships, both within, and without the family.

What we learn from these studies and their results are best relayed in these 3 actions that we should apply to our own lives with diligence:

  • Prepare Yourself and Your Family for the Worst:  Don’t make your family fearful of the people they trust but make sure they know that anyone is capable of anything.
  • Intervene:  Intervention causes communication and when family members communicate family members forgive
  • Be Ready to Forgive: This is Easier said than done.  It is one thing to talk about forgiveness practicing what you preach is another.

If you want to have a better functioning more honest and open family; forgiveness is paramount to success. If you want better relationships, you have to become a forgiving person overall, and give up your self-righteous attitude. Bottom Line, someone at some point will hurt you. That’s not the issue, we all know that. The issue is how you respond to the pain.


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