Honouring the Purpose of Family

Does the well-known saying “You can choose your friends but not your family,” reveal the fact that from the get go we believe we are hapless victims of circumstance and simply have to put up with what life has handed us? What if there is actually no accident in terms of who we end up with in family; that we in fact choose our family for the learning and experience we need this time around?

If we can accept and embrace the family we are born into, then this forms the foundation of our relationship with family and we are more likely to be open to the learning on offer, knowing we are blessed by everything that unfolds, even if it does not look pretty. This understanding frees us from the belief system that has us as victims of circumstance in our families, caught up in blaming others and feeling like we are haplessly trapped in some kind of enduring punishment.

Bringing more awareness to all our pictures and beliefs about family and all the expectations and ‘rules’ in our societies means that we can start to unpack them and live free from them. There are many rules, ideals and expectations about what a family ‘should’ look like that we are forever trying to live up to, and from this comes the crippling way that we compare and compete with others: a mean judgement of ourselves alongside what we see everyone else doing.

We work so hard at keeping everything looking alright on the surface, no matter what is going on behind closed doors. The key point of devastation here is the simple fact that we are living beholden to external rules, rather than the innate qualities and standards that we hold within which make us who we are and aware of the true potential of all our relationships and what they offer.

One of the many ills of living with pictures is that they keep us in the isolated, arm’s length disconnection from one another as we all collude in the pretence of ‘keeping up appearances.’

  • What if the true purpose of family is to learn and grow, and that sometimes this may not look pretty at all? That our learning is so much richer when our attention and energy is not focussed on maintaining a status quo that can be labeled ‘acceptable’ and/or ‘good.’
  • What if we all have the responsibility and wherewithal to hold our own and stay steady to what we know is of true value, whatever the world or others might be saying?
  • What if some relationships need to ‘break’ for there to be true learning and development?
  • What if blaming our adult behaviour on experiences from childhood is a futile and irresponsible indulgence? At what stage do we take responsibility for our lives, heal our past hurts, move on from blame and stand on our own two feet, laying the path ahead with the choices we make?
  • What if as parents we stay in dysfunctional and unhappy relationships ‘for the children’ because the world says that two parents together are better? And from the adult role models in their lives, what does this teach children about relationships, integrity, truth and love?

Suspending disbelief for a moment or two and allowing ourselves to explore these ‘what ifs’ opens up the possibility of a whole new way of relating to life, family, relationships and the beautiful, significant and responsible part we can play in all of the above.

By Mary-Louise Myers, age 60, carer for our elderly, health practitioner, mother of 2, Australia & Matilda Bathurst, age 51, midwife, primary school teacher, mother of 3, cook and writer, UK

Related Reading:
A true family model for the 21st century
Building true relationships and positive parenting
True Family

601 thoughts on “Honouring the Purpose of Family

  1. I know as i begin to undress the many pictures i have about who I/we should be or what I/we should be doing I am fascinated to unravel how easily I allow my mind to form and pursue a desire that can chip away at both my mental and physical wellbeing. Through learning to honour how my body responds to each situation I have built a level of confidence i never thought was possible.

  2. “What if blaming our adult behaviour on experiences from childhood is a futile and irresponsible indulgence? At what stage do we take responsibility for our lives, heal our past hurts, move on from blame and stand on our own two feet, laying the path ahead with the choices we make?…” Great question. Once we find ourselves asking this question, its an invitation to graduate into true adulthood, responsibility, self respect, acceptance and letting-go.

  3. The difficulty of embracing your family is not so much the family you got (in spite of its characters) but the fact that such constellation is what you need to go beyond where you were when you incarnated again. Accepting that we have to go there to evolve may be hard, but not accepting is much worst.

  4. Our kids learn far far more from the way we live than from what we say. So if we are not truly living love in our relationship with our partner or with them, then what exactly are we teaching and imparting to our children?

  5. ‘What if some relationships need to ‘break’ for there to be true learning and development?’ that is a very strongly held picture around family that we ‘stick together’, yet why would the relationships within families be any different from those outside of the blood related ones? The understanding that breaking up can be a developmental or evolutionary process (and one I have witnessed many people blossom in) applies across the board – exposing the pictures around family and the way we can keep each other back from that growth for the sake of that picture.

  6. It feels so important not to blame our adult behaviour on experiences from childhood and to take responsibility for our choices we make. Family can really help us to sort our issues out when we understand the part we play.

  7. The current purpose of family seems to be to have a group to be belong to, but also one that we will accept ‘unacceptable’ behaviour from. If we love everyone equally, as all religions espouse is the way to live, we would inspire each other and not accept behaviour that brings the family or an individual down. I am learning to not be attached to family and to learn to be myself despite pressure to conform. I am also learning my responsibility to be and bring true love and growth to the family.

  8. “What if blaming our adult behaviour on experiences from childhood is a futile and irresponsible indulgence? ” as hard as this can be to fathom it is indeed something I have come to appreciate, that we are ultimately able to look at our own choices and heal the past hurts and not drag them with us as an excuse for not being loving with ourselves and others. It takes time but the work is well worth it.

    1. When it comes to family and childhood hurts yes I agree David this might often be hard to fathom, yet it IS worth the time and the self-responsibility as it can turn around all relationships, not just that with our family of origin.

  9. We hold so many reactions against our families, children grow up to become young adults who despise their parents and put the whole blame on them simply because it is easier that way. To even go to the concept of that we may actually be choosing our families asks too much of us to consider, perhaps it is true, and perhaps our parents, brothers, sisters and so on are in our lives because they’re there to teach us a lesson, for us to strengthen a side that we are not so strong in and evolve. But if we remain stuck in the blame of who did what to me, then we will never understand the lesson, and grow.

  10. When there were large families in past times, people could choose among their family whom they would relate to. German even has a word for it “Wahlverwandtschaft” – those relatives we elect to relate to.

  11. Family ought to be a place where we feel safe to be all of who we are so that then we can bring that essence out into the world for all to know, see and enjoy.

  12. If it is that we are in a family to learn and grow, we can accept that sometimes this may not look pretty at times, yet we also know that there is the potential to bring deeper understanding and awareness so we don’t keep falling into the same pattern and reaction. As we heal these hurts the whole family shifts and adjusts to the now new and deeper relationships.

  13. Families reflect a large set of beliefs. Recently I uncovered one reflected by my father. Not him as a person, but a set of beliefs he had picked up from his parents and unconsciously passed on to us, the kids. As a grown up I found it rather reveiling to see through a jugdment I had on myself the past weeks and realize it was how my dad perceived himself in relationship towards us, his family. The beautiful thing is that I went softer and more accepting towards me ánd I got a deeper understanding for him and his behaviour and with that more love came through.

  14. ‘What if we all have the responsibility and wherewithal to hold our own and stay steady to what we know is of true value, whatever the world or others might be saying?’ i am really feeling the pertinence of this one more and more. I have been transparent in an area of my life regarding my health that I suspected would be responded to with assumptions and I have received an email confirming this. This is actually ok. I know I will be put under greater scrutiny and I understand why. Now it’s about how I live, how I respond and say, let’s not judge me based on assumptions but respond to how I actually am, the quality I hold and my integrity at calling it out if my work is being compromised.

    On some level people will know my choices to be in disregard have led me to where I am at with my health so I can’t cry it’s unfair if they are dubious about me and that my call to be transparent has called for me to be under the spotlight. The big question now is, do I reflect a deep level of responsibility that inspires no matter where my health takes me?

  15. When I was 13 years old I asked my mum if I could call her by her first name as she was just as much a friend to me as a mother. My mother was very touched by this and since then I speak to her on a first name basis which to us has always been very endearing.

    1. It’s interesting how ideals and pictures of our roles within the family can obstruct connection. In my own family, my parents refused to be called anything other than ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’, which as I grew into an adult became harder and harder to stick with. They were very clear that they wanted our roles to be perceived in a certain way – for boundaries to be in place in our relationships in the ideal of what a mother/father/daughter relationship should be. To me, this is capping. With my own children, when they call me by my first name I celebrate it because not only do I hear the divine vibration of my name being called back to me but I feel our true equality.

      1. The roles of mother daughter father son etc come loaded with ideals and beliefs which are sometimes hard to get past. Calling each other by our names and also using each others name when we are talking about each other seems much healthier and less burdensome. Sometimes calling someone by their full name rather than a nickname can take the sting out too. Respect and decency are regained when we let go of emotional and mental tenets .

      2. I am pleased you have mentioned the point about respect and decency with regards to names. In the primary and secondary education fields the prevailing thought is that calling a teacher by their first name shows disrespect. However having worked in both the FE sectors and secondary and having had students call me by my first name, and title and surname, I can say that I much prefer to simply be called Michelle. This supports an equal relationship with my students and I find that the formality of the surname can act as a barrier to that. There is no disrespect in someone calling me by my first name – it is the way they call it that counts. Also I know that many teachers like to hide behind their role and this is much harder to do when you are being addressed by your first name.

    2. I can feel the sweetness in your gesture towards your mum Henrietta, that’s very lovely and certainly breaks the norm asking us to reconsider the relationship with the woman that birthed us into the world.

  16. Family is always an interesting topic to explore – to me there is family and then there is family which really comes down to how we choose to see things. In the end, I find that family is not determined by a bloodline but that we are all one large family learning to live together – and with some we will get along, whilst with others not with so much ease. Either way it is a lesson, a learning and an opportunity to grow and evolve together.

    1. This is a great sharing as there is such a blinded view when we see family as those who were raised under the same roof rather than the universe that holds us all as one.

  17. I wonder how many would speak and feel about our family if we realized we actually choose them ourselves before birth. I know it changed a lot for me and it supported me in taking more responsibility for my life and learning to see what lessons I had not yet looked at that had been on offer from the moment I was born.

  18. Realizing that our family constellations have a purpose will allow for a very different view, one that will show us what there is to learn and advance from in this life. And this could be across the range of possibilities, from saying no to abuse and breaking the belief that we should stay with family no matter what, all the way to embracing and surrendering to the love and support that can come from such a constellation.

  19. Beautifully put – we are not hapless victims of circumstance but make our life according to our choices. And that includes our parents and siblings, the whole birth family and beyond.

    1. It even means we can be absolutely loving with no resentments from past events to every member of our family once we have worked through our issues.

  20. “The key point of devastation here is the simple fact that we are living beholden to external rules, rather than the innate qualities and standards that we hold within which make us who we are…” Reading this sentence I can feel so clearly how this has played out in my own life, for more years than I care to register. But to live in way that deeply honours who we are and has no external rules but only answers to the truth of what one feels is not only incredibly freeing for the individual, but offers so much in the way of inspiration, reflection and support to so many others as well.

  21. ‘The key point of devastation here is the simple fact that we are living beholden to external rules, rather than the innate qualities and standards that we hold within which make us who we are…’ This is truly devastating when we realise the gold we could otherwise be living within our relationships – and when I realise what I have settled for has been so short of the true intimacy on offer. This is true of my relationship with myself – how I have had such high expectations of myself based not on love but on ideals and beliefs that have no care for people; and judged myself for not meeting these requirements to be loved!

  22. I’m living with extended family at the moment and it is so huge to feel the difference in if we do something out of being a nice family vs if we do something in true life and purpose. It’s actually a great reflection for us all to choose more love and honesty.

  23. No one in our lives are an accident, everyone is constellated for a reason, some very briefly and others for life and beyond but there are no accidents as I see it. The more I observe this the clearer I feel about it.

  24. The devastation of ‘living beholden to external rules’ and perpetuating the game of keeping up appearances is so far reaching and infiltrates so many of our micro choices every day. I had to check with myself this morning who I was putting my make up on for…

  25. If we can see the bigger picture and understand that life, our lives and who are in them is there to support all of us to evolve, to grow beyond any ways of being we have and hold onto which do not support us to be all we are, our relationships are different and how we approach them is different and all of a sudden those issues or challenges become something else, not a nuisance or even an issue but an opportunity if we can let go and embrace them for all of us to evolve.

  26. When I think of what family is about now, it is very different to what I was fed through movies and socialisation. Now I would say family is an opportunity to learn to be in harmonious, evolving relationships with a group of people, to learn the true meaning of love and that that is equally for every other person we meet.

  27. Accepting is key, accepting that we are where we are due to the choices we’ve made, and that those around us reflect to us those choices and how in fact we are offered an opportunity in that reflection to heal how we are and how we’ve been … there are no accidents, there is just reflection and a call to responsibility for us all, and we do this together.

    1. Yes, there are no accidents, there is no such thing as good or bad luck and, as Albert Einstein said, “God doesn’t throw dice”. In other words, the buck stops with us.

  28. ‘keeping up appearances.’ doesn’t work, people see past this anyway and if we play this game it puts unnecessary stress on our family to live a lie instead of being honest and accepting what is really going on. Honesty supports us to grow and living in an illusion simply does the opposite.

    1. I know the concept of ‘keeping up appearances’ quite well, or as it was said in my family ‘you do not hang the dirty laundry outside’ It is devastating not only for those in it who are repressing their feelings and needing to pretend but for all the onlookers who are presented with a false picture thus the illusion of family life is perpetuated.

  29. I love coming back to this blog as each time it reflects something different to me. If we as children and as adults see each other as equal we heal our own hurts. I had a beautiful opportunity recently when my parents travelled over to the country I’m living in for a holiday. It was like I took the childhood glasses off and saw them for the amazing people they are and have always been, and it has been different ever since.

  30. ‘What if some relationships need to ‘break’ for there to be true learning and development?’ And this breaks all our pictures of what a relationship should be, for often a relationship does need to break in order to have something true be lived and expressed, the question for us is how willing we are to continue to evolve our relationships? How willing are we to express and live truth?

  31. I actually love the different reflections my family members offer. We are all quite different in expression though we have supported each other to develop our understanding of others and all of life through our relationships.

  32. “What if there is actually no accident in terms of who we end up with in family; that we in fact choose our family for the learning and experience we need this time around?” I have had a number of conversations in the past few days where this is a great reminder that there is no accident in who we live life alongside.

  33. I love the real purpose of family shared here that opens up so much and the reality of true healing and evolution in our lives.

    1. HM wise words, and one where we know and can appreciate that what we are being offered with family is the opportunity to evolve, grow and expand for a greater purpose than just what we call family today.

    2. Agreed HM we always have the opportunity to learn and grow from family and more and more come to understand just how great family is, in that we are ultimately all family and have a responsibility not only to those directly near us or who we traditionally call family but to everyone worldwide.

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