And I don’t mean just that easy respect that comes when everything is rosy: the influential job, and impeccable behavior with every word and deed done just right. I’m talking about that fundamental respect that everyone inherently deserves regardless of what they do or how they behave – the kind that treats everyone well, even strangers. Often that unconditional respect is easier between strangers because you don’t know their struggles or opinions, failures and hurts. And it is definitely easier with strangers than family members because there is no history of hurts or misunderstanding between you. So while deserved respect is delightful- and it helps largely if every family member is earnestly endeavoring within themselves and with their actions to deserve respect- it is the undeserved, unconditional respect that matters most as the sustaining glue of a functional family. This is true because no matter how hard any of us try, we all fall short of the ideal, but we still require and indeed deserve respect on the most fundamental level. This respect, regardless of deserving, is the foundation of a functional family.
It is similar with love- the unconditional kind is required. You don’t have to like someone but you must love them. Unlike respect, I think this comes easier in families. Usually bonds of respect are challenged long before bonds of love. What usually passes for unloving behavior comes from thinking respect must be deserved.
Gratitude for all the good is essential for happy relationships. Loving and respecting unconditionally can be very hard work, so gratitude, regularly expressed in words, actions and demeanor, is the oil that greases a functional family.
Let the bad go
This is easier said than done, but the blessings of routinely doing this immediately on all sorts of little things is enormous. This takes practice, but functional families address large concerns via mutual love and respect, and let the rest go.
One person’s selfishness cannot be considerate of another person’s selfishness. That never works. A functional family prioritizes the health of the whole over defense of one’s self. This can only happen when the unconditional love and respect pieces are solid and the self therefor feels safe. In turn, the health of the family supports the self more and better than the self ever could alone.
Being considerate of boundaries is also important and this is especially tricky because these are moving targets as people grow and change. Therefor loving and respectful communication is required, along with expectation that one’s needs will be met and gratitude for other’s efforts on your behalf.
Even in the closest families, we never know everything someone is going through. A suspension of judgement and criticism in favor of conscious compassion is the environment that is healthiest for all family members.
Spending time together
Functional families celebrate the successes of each member and are there for each other in times of need. They enjoy spending time together, and individually and collectively work to be interested, inclusive, and kind to one another.