Some of us may be familiar with the concept of unity in diversity, but may have never considered what that would look like as applied to families. In a nutshell, the concept of unity in diversity involves unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation. All this leads to more growth, learning, and working together. This concept has been applied to many areas of learning academically.
Practical Application to Families
I'd like to take a more practical approach to what this concept may or could look like as applied to our experiences with families. But first here are some initial thoughts to consider:
- Families vary in their level of healthiness. This all depends on the healthiness of the individuals and the eldest members of the family. Some families as willing to become healthier, some are not willing to grow.
- Being part of a family sometimes means "accepting the good with the bad." All families have different people in that particular family. Some will rub you the wrong way and others you will enjoy talking with. You can always limit your time with toxic members, but if you're looking to be with people who are just like you or perfect, you can't really enjoy the benefits of being in a family.
- Sometimes we need to seek out families other than our biological family to get what we need and/or want to grow. Many times I've seen or heard of individuals continue hoping that their biological family will somehow change their toxic behaviors when those family members have no desire or show no effort to make any lasting changes. As a result, some of us may need to seek support elsewhere in other families. These "other families" can come in the form of recovery groups, spiritually-based groups, community-based groups, etc. In order for these groups to help us grow, they need to be relatively healthy groups.
- Sometimes we may need to become part of more than one family to get what we need to become healthy and grow. Every person and every family has its limitations. When we reach a point where we have recognized and put into practice the healthy aspects of a family, we may discover a desire within ourselves to continue to grow past what this family practices. At this point, we need to make a decision of whether to stay with this family and simultaneously move on to another family experience, or, if it is necessary, to completely cut ties with the first family for reasons such as their unwillingness to accept our new decisions and personal growth.
- Depending on your experience and closeness to your first family, upon leaving you may need to take a season of grieving the loss of those people and experiences associated with them. This will vary from individual to individual as well, but the grieving process is healthy and necessary in order to take the next step in your personal growth.
- In order to fully experience and appreciate what a particular family has to offer, you need to come in humility and focus on what you have in common and can learn from the individuals and eldest in the family. Some families are open to new ideas for change and some are comfortable where they are at. Your role is to learn and practice the healthy aspects of these families.
What Does Diversity Look Like?
Diversity comes in many forms and expressions. Culture, a person's place in their personal growth and development, their gifts and talents, strengths and weaknesses, values, occupation and passions and purpose in life are all part of diversity. These different elements can be used to enrich other individual's lives. These elements could also be used as a reason for disappointment and disunity if we expect other's to be like ourselves.
How is Unity Demonstrated in a Family?
Unity always first begins with acceptance of differences even if we are disappointed that other members of our family do not respond the way we would like them to respond. Sometimes people don't see the need to grow in a certain area or they are just not capable of responding the way we want them to respond. When we accept where other's are at and we can be ourselves in a particular family, then we can start to learn and grow in this context. As long as each individual's personal boundaries are respected, we can still learn and grow together.
Putting It All Together
Families come in many expressions: biological, marriage, spiritual, recovery groups, community groups, etc. Every relatively healthy family has something to offer a participant who is willing to learn and grow. Diversity in families comes in many forms and expressions. Unity is the result of individual members of a family respecting each other's personal boundaries and accepting and learning from each other.
Is your biological family or family of marriage or adoption relatively healthy? What qualities of this family can you embrace to become healthier and grow? Do you need to seek out additional families to help you grow in other areas and where would you find them? Are you able to practice unity in he diversity of the families you are part of?