HEALING FAMILY HURTS
Congratulations for coming to the end of the month of October (the month of the Holy Rosary of our Lady). I hope you had a good time with our Lady and you were able to get more insights and graces from your participations with the parish October devotion programmes. More so, I am sure you prayed fervently for your biological families (nuclear and extended) and your spiritual family (the Church)? Thanks for your consistent commitment on the platform of Sunday Hints for the spiritual life. I hope it is adding values to your life and that of your family. Keep praying for its improvement and don’t hesitate to offer your comments and suggestions.
Today our preoccupation is to identify some pressing family issues that are infringing on the good and harmonious relationships of family members. Families tend to experience barriers, wounds and issues among members because of their connections, relationships and communication. Families also are experiencing a lot of hurdles as a result of accumulated animosities, hatred, sexual abuse and incest, sibling rivalries, anger, adultery and infidelity, hurts and exchange of unguarded words, insensitivity to feelings, shame, guilt and oppression. Most times, we are quick to listen and accept the need for family tree healing and we hire “healers and prayer contractors” for various programmes that we cannot attest to their authenticity. The primary step to restoring and sustaining family bond, unity and progress is the acknowledgement of the reality of psychosocial effects from psychological and social factors. These issues are very numerous and they seem to have become part and parcel of our daily family lives, such that they are carried over generations and they are multiplied through procreation.
Let me illustrate with some very simple but influential examples. On a certain Sunday after Mass, a young lad approached me and ask me a very insightful question. He asked, “Am I a goat, I thought I am a human being? But my mother said I am a goat!” This lad’s question and comment kept me thinking and I was wondering how such words had imprinted so much on his psychological, emotional, social and spiritual spaces. You may have heard husbands and wives exchanging words and addressing themselves as good for nothing, not resourceful, unproductive and bundles of mess and disappointment. In some families, it is difficult for husbands and wives to affirm each other after a good action is displayed. Even to say thanks for the delicious meal, thanks for your prayers are hard to come by; let alone to their children and wards.
Now, “The patterns of our family and parents affects the way we relate not only to our husband or wife but to all other persons, especially to God as person” (Linn, Fabricant, & Linn, 1988). Even though we can be influenced by our family relationships, they do not have the overall power to determine the way we behave. Therefore, no one should be crippled in a mass of hurts, anger, guilt, shame and hopelessness.
First, we need to acknowledge our humanity, its limitations and vulnerabilities. We need to accept our situations and then begin to look for a way to heal them. The danger that many of us face is that of denial and rationalization. You are hurt and you pretend you are not. This is inimical to our psychosocial well-being. Once you repressed and suppressed feelings, they manifest in other outlets or they become blocks to your emotional health and sometimes you see yourself becoming easily agitated, envious, jealous, callous and moody. This is where talking therapy becomes very necessary. In African settings, we are rarely trained to be bold and confront issues that hurts us, hence we always claim to overlook but the effects stay with us. The best way is to look for those whom we can trust and share, those we know can listen to us and speak out especially priests and counsellors.
Secondly, many families today do have their prayers together and even monthly retreats and devotions. These avenues could also be used for group counselling and members could be given the opportunities to evaluate the levels of relationships, family bonds and feelings. Identified hurts and feelings could be reconciled amicably through forgiveness, understanding, affirmations and love. Lingering hurts are better treated professionally but supported with prayers from the family.
- How have you been handling hurtful issues and memories in your family life?
- How do you intend to heal better your family hurts and barriers?
- What is the place of God and love in the healing processes of hurts in your family?
Fr. John-Mary Atep.