Monday, December 27, 2010

Family Rifts

You can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.

An old friend of mine used to say that and laugh hysterically afterward. Sure, it’s a goofy expression, but it has a point.  We have the ability to make important choices for ourselves. We can choose our friends based on a variety of reasons, we can choose how best to live our own lives, but we really can’t choose how others should live their lives.  In friendships, if conflicting values far outweigh the shared ones, we can choose to end the friendship or, if no clean break is necessary, simply let it fade away.

With family, it’s different. The same people keep coming around again making it nearly impossible to let it fade away, and a complete break with one person in a wider family is difficult to establish.  I was reminded of this problem recently. Within forty-eight hours I was an incidental party to two family rifts in two unrelated families.  While I’m one of the most intolerant people I know, and one who is seriously impressed with the principled fortitude required to initiate and maintain a major break with bad family members, I found that in both mentioned cases, no such principled stands were made.  Both prolonged breaks were based on the false morality of those supposedly offended.

What is more interesting to me is that after having witnessed passive-aggressive behavior of the wronged parties, with whom it appeared—through physical proximity—that I had sided by default, and genuine behavior of the would-be estranged parties, I have been able to come to some conclusions about both situations. These revelations certainly won’t change my daily life, but both situations did change the way I felt about the primary attackers who each made her immoral motivations clear by following her unjust actions with an attempt at obtaining my sanction of them.   

When your actions are just, you don't need to impress support for them. 

They are dead to me now. 

Okay, I’m only kidding about that part.  While I did not give my sanction to their unjust behaviors, I do not have enough motivation to attempt to set them straight. Their transgressions were not against me, or mankind in general, but both of them displayed that exact attitude toward the ones who supposedly offended them: because you have acted in a way contrary to my opinion, you are no longer a viable human being, let alone a member of my family. From my new vantage point, it appears that both estranged parties did nothing more than try to live their lives according to their own standards of value. It was those who held the “you’re dead to me now” attitudes who try to manipulate others to accept their petty prejudices and real injustices who were, and continue to be, wrong. Happily, the estranged parties have borne their alienation well; they have neither budged toward adopting the false moral codes attempted to be foisted upon them, nor have they run to hide in unearned shame.

Bully for them and not the bullies.  

As for my old friend, instead of her nose, she picked Jesus Christ, and chose to simply fade away. That is a decision I can respect.  

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