by Amos Smith
Christmas is a time for family. Above is a picture of my family growing up. Family is never perfect. Every family I have encountered in ministry has challenges. Some hide the challenges better than others. Yet, challenges are always there.
How we deal with the challenges of our family of origin has profound repercussions for the rest of our lives. Family and the dynamics of family relationships give us the blueprint that tends to define our future relationships. I have a high regard for Family Systems Thought or Bowen Family Systems as it is commonly called. Bowen Systems has given me and many other ministers and rabbis a more accurate understanding of faith community dynamics than any other paradigm.
One of the counter-intuitive insights of Bowen Family Systems is that all of our relationships are inter-connected. In other words, if a man is having challenges with his wife, instinctively one might think that the best thing for him to do is to work on that relationship. Yet, often Bowen Systems would say, “If you are having challenges with your wife work on your relationship with you mother.” If a woman is having challenges in her relationship with her son, she may need to work on the relationships she has with her ex-husband, husband, or brother. And the list goes on… For a humorous representation of what this might look like in the twenty-first century you may want to take a look at the television show “Modern Family.”
During the holidays many people are stressed by all the preparations. Yet, what is more important than the meals, the stuffed stockings on the mantel, the lights, and the presents under the tree, are our relationships. Seen correctly, beyond shallow commercial and cultural trappings, Christmas at its best is a time to work on our relationships with the people we love. And when one relationship grows in honesty, good boundaries, respect, and love it will have ripple effects on our other relationships.