I often get letters from readers of this column who have questions about Education and Family issues. It's nice reading those letters, because I recognize that there is actually someone out there who is reading what I write. That makes the time and energy worthwhile.
After the holidays, I got the following email:
Dear Dr. Smith,
I am having a problem in my family. I love them a lot, but everyone is fighting. I want to get along with everybody, but if I am nice to one person, someone else gets mad at me. All of my family members are important to me. What should I do?
Disturbed About Family
Gosh darn! That's such a hard letter to answer. Plus, it sounded as though the writer was a young person and that made my answer all the more important. After all, young people still have ideals and beliefs that things can be 'fixed.'
Without knowing all of the particulars, this was my answer to "Disturbed."
Dear "Disturbed About Family,"
First of all, let me congratulate you for caring about your family. In my opinion, family is the most important organization in life. We can belong to many things, but our family relationships define who we are as human beings.
You didn't tell me any specifics about the "fighting" that is going on in your family, so it might be hard for me to give you much comfort.
But, I can say a few things that I think might help you.
First of all, loving your family is a good thing. Sometimes they are unlovable, but that doesn't mean that we can't love them in spite of themselves.
You can't 'fix' people. You can only hope that they can understand your needs and try and get along for your sake. If things are so bad that the family is fractured and a lot of anger or hate has intruded, then the solution will be much more difficult.
When you are nice to someone, that person should be grateful. If you are also nice to someone else in the family, the first family member should say "Isn't it great that she can get along with everyone?"
If the people in your family aren't happy that you can get along with everyone, then they are selfish and jealous. They might sit back and say, "How can you be friendly with her if you are friendly with me?" Your answer can be – "I try to get along with everybody and I'm not taking sides."
Of course, then you cannot take sides. You must try to be like Switzerland – neutral. Don't talk about people; don't listen to gossip about loved ones; don't carry tales; and most of all, don't stop loving someone because someone tells you to.
So, in the scheme of life, family disturbances may seem important right now. But, as you get older and wiser, you will realize that people will always fight and argue. The best thing to do is be a better person