Family Paradox

Family Focus: Family Blog Post # 11 Family Paradox

Families, doing everything for each other out of imagined obligation and always getting in each other’s way, what a tangle.” JOHN UPDIKE, Rabbit is Rich

Paradox- something that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible. Families are often the clearest and best example of the reality of paradox. People who love each other and will do anything for each other – with whom we are often the most short tempered, selfish, rude, and crude.

And yet, somehow, it works. Some of the harshest and cruel words we ever say are to our family members. Why is that? How can such things be? I set forth some of the reasons in my Family Focus post #6 Family Quarrels. There are other. One not mentioned there is that because they are family – and always will be (no matter how hard we wish and pray, we will still have the same biological parents and siblings) we can treat them poorly and it won’t matter. They won’t leave. Acquaintances, friends, fellow workers – these won’t put up with our fits and outbursts… they will write us off and walk away. We understand that. We expect that. We also expect that family members will not walk away. The problem is, of course, is that they may. They are blood; but they are human and have a breaking point.

You can break the paradox. You can be the family member that begins to restore harmony. If you are estranged from a family member because you have treated them poorly, it is in your power to begin the process of healing. The healing begins with humility and transparency… the following is what I taught my clients about apologies and forgiveness:

Apologies and Forgiveness

A few initial points to realize and remember:

  • Forgiveness is the willful act of deciding to no longer hold a past hurt from another against them; one that has gotten in the way of an open, healthy relationship.
  • Forgiveness can come without any act on the part of the injuring party.
  • Full forgiveness for an injury typically requires an apology.
  • Apologies come in all forms; the effectiveness of each is determined by the kind of apology given and the strength of the injured party’s willingness to put the hurt behind them.
  • A complete apology involves three parts:

1) Ownership of the Act – owning the act = telling the other person that, “I did such and such a thing…”

2) Acknowledgment of the Harm– acknowledging awareness of the hurt that the above act caused the other person and conveying true sorrow over that hurt. (e.g. I did such and such a thing, and I recognize that my action caused you harm. I do truly care about you and it grieves me that I caused you that harm.)

3) Request for Forgiveness – this step has 4 sub-parts:

  1. asking the other person what it would take to restore the harm and offering to take that restorative action,
  2. taking the restorative action,
  3. asking the other person to forgive the initial offending action and the resulting harm,
  4. asking the person if he/she truly feels that relationship has been restored – if the answer is no, go back to steps 3a through 3c.

When the harm is between people who are going to be in an ongoing relationship, it may be necessary to include a 4th step.

4) Promise/Request – this part also involves three sub-parts:

a) telling the injured party that you greatly value the relationship and that you want it to continue in a health manner

b) conveying to the other that you honestly do not want them to be hurt like this again and give your word to the other that you are committed to taking whatever future actions are necessary to assure the other that they do not need to fear being hurt like this again (this will most likely include promising to do or not do a specific act in the future)

c) asking the injured party to, in light of the above, to put the harm behind them and forgive them so that the relationship can be restored.

A Few Final Points to Understand:

  • True and momentary forgiveness can come without an apology.
  • True and lasing forgiveness is difficult when the offending party has demonstrated a long- standing practice of repeated offenses followed by repeated broken promises.
  • True and lasting forgiveness is far more likely when the offending party has honestly seen the destructiveness of the action, takes complete responsibility for it, and is committed to putting it fully and finally in the past, and give the offended party real reason to believe that such is the case.
  • Forgiveness is difficult because it make the forgiving party vulnerable to repeated hurt. What forgiveness truly entails is taking down of a protective wall and laying down the defenses that guard from emotional pain. The wall does protect. That is why it is there, but the wall also creates an emotional barrier between the parties and does not allow for genuine and complete love and unity.

If you would like to communicate further about this or any other issues, please email me at and we can chat. We can also chat on Messenger once I know who you are.

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For His glory,


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