The Importance of Family

What is more important?

Nature versus Nurture is a complicated subject. It’s highly debated how much of a person’s character and thought processes are natural versus what is caused by their environment. But, I think there is no debate about the fact that there is a degree of nature in everyone and a degree of nurture. Nobody is born a blank slate, and neither is anyone born oblivious to their surroundings.

I’ve known several people throughout my life who had to abandon their family. I once had a friend named Kelly, whose maternal grandmother (or was it both grandparents?) was literally insane; she was part of a cult and did messed up things to Kelly’s mother. (Further proof women aren’t perfect parents just because they’re female.) After growing up, Kelly’s mother moved far away, and raised Kelly immensely better than she herself was raised. I had many conversations with Kelly’s mother about this, because she and I could relate to each other about having come from terrible parents. Hers were undoubtedly worse than mine, not that it was a competition or something.

Some people I’ve known who abandoned their place/people of origin did so for unknown reasons. For one example, I used to have another friend, named Stephen, whose father left Michigan and everyone he knew there, to start a new life. I don’t know why, but he never seemed to regret that decision.

No matter who you are or where you come from, the people you were raised by, and the environment you were raised in, will always have an impact on you. It takes a tremendous amount of bravery to remove yourself from the people who raised you, when they weighed you down instead of building you up.

This is why I don’t use the word ‘family’ like everyone else. I no longer believe that one’s family and relatives are the same people no matter what. I believe we all choose who our family is. Without a doubt, one’s family should be their relatives, but sometimes, one’s relatives are the most toxic people for that person to be associated with. That’s the way it was with me, with both my adoptive and especially my biological relatives. My relationship with my adoptive parents finally improved to at least a minimal degree, but still, that took 18 years.

Some people I’ve known are great people because they left their relatives. Some people I’ve known remain in shambles because they won’t walk away from their relatives. Like an addictive drug, those people cling to their relatives for support, but they wouldn’t need to cling to them so much if they detached themselves a long time ago. Like an addictive drug, they remain attached to something that hurts them, but they can’t bring themselves to walk away either.

The most amazing people I’ve known have all had 2 things in common. For 1, they are naturally good people underneath the surface, and 2, they were brought up by wise, loving, and supportive families who remain integral to their lives to this day. As you may have figured, this is applicable to those I talked about in my previous post The Greatest People I’ve Known.

Only until recently did I notice that I’ve only been in one serious relationship with someone who did not come from a dysfunctional family, and that was my first girlfriend, Lisa, who I was with off-and-on from early-2004 to late-2010. I’ve always considered her the most intelligent girl I’ve ever been with, by far, but it’s only recently dawned on me that her upbringing may have contributed to that. Lisa wasn’t only intelligent, she was also very happy, which is more than I can say for either girl I dated after her. Her family situation was not one of turmoil or tension, ever. Neither of her parents ever yelled at her, struck her, or made her feel unloved in any way. Her mother worked at our school, which both allowed her to regularly see the kind of boy I was, and she seemed to like me a lot. Good parents, good family, and it made a girl who developed a healthy mind. She didn’t grow up in fear, or feeling worthless, or with daddy issues.

“But Michael, she cheated on you.” Okay, yes, that is true, but that was her choice; it wasn’t something she felt compelled to do by any sort of insecurity or brokenness. She didn’t cheat then say, “I don’t know what I was thinking!! I don’t know why I did it!!” like so many cheaters excuse themselves with. She was self-aware enough to know it was a conscious choice with no excuse. She knew she wasn’t a good person, and I can’t help but respect that. If you’re going to be a piece of shit, at least own it. Only a healthy mind has such self-awareness.

So, coming from a good family doesn’t guarantee you’ll be a good person, but I think it may guarantee you will at least always be able to think straight. To recognize reality just fine, and not need drugs, alcohol or a whole variety of other addictions to cope with reality. Not always, but usually. Everyone is different.

But, I still think that, more often than not, coming from a good family does produce decent, law-abiding, moral individuals. It’s hard not to be a good person when you were raised surrounded by good people. On the flipside, if you’re raised by reprehensible people, you will very likely turn out that way, too. Alcoholics raise future alcoholics, child abusers raise future child abusers, and whatnot.

Again, though, everyone is different.

Coming from a deranged mother and a father who proudly, yes proudly, cared nothing about his children, and not to mention some of the mental siblings I have, I grew up scared I’d end up like those I’m most closely related to. Why do I cling to strongly to my principles? Maybe it’s simply a simple choice, maybe it’s because I wanted to be better than where I came from, maybe both. Why do I take the subject of parenting, and family in general, so seriously? Because of them. I grew up wanting to have a family. I used to have 2 of my older siblings, but they radically changed after we were adopted separately, and I quickly realized I wanted to be nothing like them, either. I still want a family. I nearly had one, but the person I chose to marry turned out to be my greatest mistake in life yet. For the time being, I still have my daughter, and she’s all the family I want or need, but who knows what our biased laws and judges will allow her mother will get away with in the end.

Family matters. It matters even more than people generally know. Many people who are raised in dysfunctional, broken families are 99% of the time doomed to turn out that way. I rarely see people from broken/dysfunctional families end up having strong, healthy families themselves, and I rarely see people from healthy families end up having broken families of their own.

Family matters. Family is everything. Choose yours wisely.

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