Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Developing Lasting Family Relationships

By Guest Blogger: Mishay
In my personal and professional experience, I have observed that family relationships can bring about a range of emotions—from levels of absolute joy to almost unbearable heartache.  The following principles can be applied to promote healthy relationships:

The first principle is SERVICE.  I love the New Testament and learning about the countless acts of service performed by Jesus Christ.  Matthew 10:39 says, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”  One of my favorite family traditions was playing Secret Santa.  Every year we would buy presents for a less fortunate family and on Christmas Eve we would leave the gifts on the doorstep, knock and run away.  Through this experience and other charitable acts, my parents ingrained in us the importance of being generous.  It is a natural tendency to worry about ourselves and our circumstances; to some extent, when we take care of ourselves we are in a better position to help others.  However, it becomes problematic when we lose perspective by becoming overly focused on our own desires and neglect the needs of those around us.  It is sometimes easier to give our energy and attention to those who are not members of our family, leaving little for those at home.   David O. McKay, ninth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taught, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”  I wholeheartedly agree with his statement and recognize that it takes a tremendous amount of selflessness to sustain healthy family relationships. Alternatively, I cannot think of any endeavor that brings more joy or fulfillment.

The second principle is SACRIFICE.  Growing up my dad would tell me, “Sacrifice is giving up something good for something better.”  He has certainly lived up to this ideal.  My dad has always been extremely busy in his career and church responsibilities.  I imagine that he and my mom had very little, if any, free time as they were raising my 4 brothers and me.  Despite their hectic schedule, my parents were at every one of my ballet recitals, piano recitals, and basketball games.  My dad even coached my basketball team for several years.  Becoming a mom has opened my eyes to my parents’ immense sacrifices.  We now live in an age of technology where we can communicate very quickly.  However, there are no shortcuts when it comes to relationships.  Relationships take work.  They require patience and compromise.   Although there may be moments of euphoria, the majority of life is spent performing mundane tasks.  I remember one Saturday when my husband and I were engaged; we spent the day cleaning each of our apartments, going grocery shopping and doing laundry.  In our almost 2 years of dating, we had many fun dates but it occurred to me that this Saturday would become the norm for married life.  Work provides stability, structure, routine and boundaries—all traits that help a family to thrive.  It is tempting to seek instant gratification but genuine relationships require time and sacrifice.

The third principle is FORGIVENESS.  Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said, “I have long felt that happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion. That involves a willingness to overlook weaknesses and mistakes.”  One of the most difficult realizations in dealing with relationships is that we are imperfect.  Whether it is an interaction with our mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, or child, we are all human and fallible.  The second commandment is, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). These are not gentle suggestions. They are commandments.  One of the first places we feel love or feel that love is withheld, is at home.  Eighth grade was one of the worst years of my life.  I treated my mom terribly and said many unkind words that I sorely regret.  Despite my horrible attitude and verbal attacks, my mom continued to demonstrate love.  Even after I attempted to run away from home, she tried to salvage our relationship when she could have given up.  Loving those around us and loving ourselves can be complicated while forgiving others and forgiving ourselves is often a long and difficult process.  Whenever there is a gap between our expectations and the reality of our circumstances, we may feel disappointment, anger, depression, or heartbreak.  We might grieve for children who have special needs, loved ones who suffer from illness, an unhappy marriage or subsequent divorce, financial instability, or any other of life’s many obstacles.  I find great hope and comfort in knowing that Jesus Christ not only redeemed us from sin, he also suffered for our physical, emotional and spiritual pains.  Linda Burton, leader of the women’s organization of the LDS church said, “All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

The fourth and final principle is UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.  My daughter is learning how to walk.  When she falls down I do not scold her or criticize her for making a mistake.  Instead, I encourage her to stand back up and try again.  We both clap when she takes a few steps and I tell her that I am proud of her.  I have watched my own parents rejoice when their 5 children are successful and mourn when we are troubled.  I imagine this is how God feels about us, His children.  Quite frankly, some people are easier to love than others.  It may feel natural to place conditions on our love but we must fight these inclinations if we want to build strong, trusting relationships in our families.  Rather than becoming frustrated or disappointed when others fail to meet our expectations, we can show compassion and understanding.  God loves us regardless of our character flaws or the mistakes we have made.  The current leader of the LDS church, Thomas Monson said, “God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there.”    I'm a Mormon.


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