I was thinking, the other day, about my family and how well we all get along together. I mean we genuinely enjoy each others company! I wondered, “What is it that makes our family sing?” How did we get four children that not only hang out together but even live in the same apartments, with one married son near by? It seems that many of the families I’ve witnessed work hard to get away from each other. The siblings don’t ‘sib.’ Family gatherings are a tortuous affair to be avoided or at least softened with a shot or two of tequilla. And it’s usually not long after the alcohol starts flowing that this one is mad at that one and that one is still mad at this one for some event that happened in 1982. Really? Is that what families are all about? Should the people who are the closest to one another reserve their good behavior for strangers and conclude that it’s okay to say whatever to whomever because they are family? Again, really?
So what is it that we do that others maybe don’t do and do we in fact have a secret that might benefit someone else? When we are together our words aren’t always the most kind. We definitely aren’t the Duggars! We argue; we fight; we disagree passionately at times. We have strong opinions about everything. We gang up together on certain issues and our heated discussions have been known to last three hours or longer. We might cry; we always laugh and our volume is often off the chart. Yet, we get together again and again and again. Why is that?
Well, I think there are a couple of reasons actually. The first one and arguably the most important one is that we just plain old love each other. I suppose every family loves each other, but we carry that love in our hearts no matter what is going on. Maybe that’s the spirit of God in each of us. We don’t decide to love each other because the other person is behaving nicely and is deserving of our love. We love each other unconditionally and that’s a whole different kind of love. Unconditional love has no conditions in it. Conditional love is chock full of rules. Conditional love demands behaviors and withdraws its love if those behaviors are absent. Conditional love has no tolerance for bad behavior. You either behave in the way that I think is right or I don’t love you anymore; at least in my actions. Crazy huh? Conditional love chooses not to forgive or at least not until sufficient penance has been paid to deserve it. In short, conditional love sucks! Family behavior is just too diverse and varied to hold up under the strains of endless conditions and expectations. Sure we need some rules to function together, but we need unconditional love more than any rule. Interestingly, unconditional love doesn’t require rules at all because love always has the other person at heart.
The next reason perhaps goes hand in hand with that unconditional love. We don’t judge each other. We just don’t! Judgment chaps our collective hides! Whether it’s my son defending his friend or my daughter speaking up for her brother, we defer our judgments with a clear understanding of our own lives and foibles. Maybe each of us has participated in enough absurdity that we totally ‘get’ absurdity from other people! In any case, we choose not to judge each other. We play together and we sometimes “go hard in the paint” as my kids would say, but the end result is always precious, good times together with lasting memories for the future. We have enough trust among one another to be able to communicate how we really feel and there’s no reason to agree with something we don’t think is right. And, the reason we feel safe is because we already love each other no matter what!
Please don’t think I’m saying my family is better than yours (I don’t judge, remember?). I’m just acknowledging that we happen to be doing something right. It’s pretty clear that unconditional love is something God had in mind when He came up with the idea of family! So, why not decide to love in that way? Why not carry that unconditional love over to your friends and everyone with whom you come into contact with? You will instantly become a very popular person because all of us need that kind of love.
Personally, I’m grateful for my family. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to live my life with. And, I can only imagine how many other people will eventually benefit from their love after I’m long gone. That’s a legacy worth living for!
Love you long time Washingtons…a long, long time!