Growing up my family was very close. In typical Italian style, every Sunday was spent at my grandparent’s home in Chicago where random aunts, uncles and cousins (most of which lived on the same block) gathered for an amazing feast.
My grandfather, the middle child of 5, had a younger brother named Chris who I had never met. Chris was rarely mentioned and when he was it was with a tone of bitterness. Confused by the paradox between the closeness of the family and the outcast of one member I asked my grandmother why Chris was not a part of our close-knit group. She quickly replied that there had been a “falling out” and then promptly changed the subject.
Unfortunately for grandma, I had a simple (yet profound) follow-up question, “what happened?” To my surprise, she couldn’t recall the circumstances, but knew that it was bad enough to “break up the family”. I later heard that the “incident” involved Chris’s wife making a comment to someone else about my grandma, which was then relayed to my grandpa through a third-party causing the rift. Shortly before my grandma’s death my grandpa and his brother reconnected and reconciled, at that point neither could tell you why they had stayed apart so long. As an adult, I can see that this 30+ year estrangement was based on gossip which, more than likely, was comprised largely of an Italian dramatization of actual events.
This may seem extreme, however; in my 25 year career I have met hundreds of families torn apart by a random comment, perceived offense or imaginary conflict. Stressed out people, especially those caring for an elderly loved one can misinterpret the comments and actions of others. In many cases, instead of trying to clarify the facts, a story is created about the other person’s actions and intentions.
When we are in conflict with others, the conflict is really where we are. Many times the other person doesn’t even know that there is a conflict. The stress from these family feuds, if allowed to fester, can cause major health issues. However, if addressed in a timely manner can more often than not be cleared up quickly.
Points to Ponder
Is there someone in your family that you are in conflict with?
If you looked at the facts of the incident(s) that caused the conflict what part did you play in the conflict?
What would you have to “give-up” in order to resolve the conflict?
What would become easier in your life if you were no longer a part of this conflict?
To REALLY answer these questions one must first leave their pride outside and take responsibility for their part in the conflict. However; if able to realistically evaluate the situation and allow yourself to forgive others and be reconciled with them, you will be amazed at how much lighter you will feel.
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