Relatives and their negatives

Relatives and their negatives

‘God gives us relatives; thank God we can choose our friends,’ observed Addison Mizner.

As much as we would like to deny it, there is a degree of truth in what he has said. If we are honest, we will admit that there are times when we feel closer to friends rather than some of our relatives. A glance at newspaper reports will tell us why this is so.

Mothers-in-law prove less than kind to daughters-in-law and vice versa.

Disputes over property are common among siblings, with some even resorting to crime.

Parents have a hard time with their children, especially adolescents who drift away, relying more on the solace and support that friends offer. Blood may be thicker than water, but it often fails to provide the binding force.

It will be interesting to find out why this happens, for after all, every friend is a relative of many others and probably has a similar story to tell.

What then makes a friend different from a relative?

There are quite a few obvious reasons but tend to be overlooked.

At the top of the list is the close proximity in which relatives generally live.

It leads to more interaction, which in turn results in familiarity that breeds indifference, resentment and anger.

Watching our relatives at close quarters brings into view their weaknesses and their faults. he mind begins to dwell on them, quite overshadowing the good qualities they possess.

Secondly, brothers and sisters grow up together in childhood.

They are treated equally but soon individual traits and abilities begin to manifest themselves and often some receive more appreciation. This leads to jealousy and even rivalry.

Later, financial status can underline these feelings and cause disharmony.

Alos, we expect a little too much from relatives, believe it is their duty to help us and take it for granted and fail to express our gratitude for what they have done.

Most important of all though is the power and authority that is wielded over members who are weaker. Older people often harp on the duty owed to them and ignore the rights of others. They do not hesitate to criticise and humiliate them.

No heed is paid to changing times and needs. Children who need gentle guidance are often punished. This leads inevitably to bitterness and hostility.

It is now easy to understand why we are drawn to like-minded people outside the family and why we value these relationships more. With friends we are usually on our best behaviour.

Their shortcomings do not impinge on our life-style.

Their status in life is not our concern and does not interfere with the way we choose to live. Besides friendship can be brought to an end with ease, while relatives remain ours for life.

There is a clear message for us here.

A relative can be a friend too if we adhere to some basic rules of behaviour.

If we adopt positive attitudes, treat our relatives as we ourselves would like to be treated, there will be no cause for resentment or discord.

What Khalil Gibran said of marriage is true for all relationships: Let there be spaces in your togetherness. And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another, but make not a bond of Love.