Sometimes, as family heads, we must step back a bit from things like the price of oil, cars, phones and check what’s genuinely important to us.
We all have the ethereal responsibilities such as faith, social or societal standards, truth and respect, but we sometimes need to put those on hold to deal with the realities of life as they are present within our family environments. This is not only true about our own lives, but also the lives of all of those we touch, albeit briefly.
It shouldn’t be an issue for any of us to be sure that those around us are in good health, and ‘coping’ with the demands of their home, study, work, or life obligations, yet when you think about it, generally we don’t support our friends and families in the way we should.
“Are you okay?” Is not enough.
“How are things?” Is not enough.
The traditional responses to such questions are set in tradition and culture, and whether in Arabic or English, are conditioned. The respondents will always respond, initially at least, in the manner to which they have become conditioned. Think about it. How many times do you respond to either of those two questions with anything other than “Al Hamdulillah” or “Okay”.
And far too often we accept those responses as legitimate, when in fact, they are a conditioned, automatic, response. Now, in light, conversational contexts, that is fine, but when we are enquiring as to the well-being or health of those we care about, we should not be so accepting. Some, of course, will respond positively because they are embarrassed about revealing any issues they face, but if you can demonstrate a clear empathy to them, they will, maybe slowly, reveal those issues.
I know. Some of you are thinking, “What happens in my house, and my family, is none of your business.” However, it is. You see, as a teacher and lecturer, I interact closely with many sons and daughters, nieces, nephews and grandchildren. I hear what they say, and I see what they write. So, I encourage all heads of family to know and understand your entire micro-society as well as you possibly can.
Be very clear, and don’t be satisfied with glib responses. Seek clarity. To do so will certainly require a confidential, or at least 1-2-1, setting. Find something to do with the family member, whether young or old, and during that take some ‘down-time’ and have ‘the conversation’. It will almost certainly be awkward in the beginning, but become easier as time, and times, become easier. What may at first, be an unwarranted intrusion, and treated warily, if it becomes a regular feature of family life will certainly take on greater importance and value within your family.
The key, of course, is to demonstrate empathy and compassion appropriate to what you are talking about, and to be sure that what you are discussing is not always based upon materialistic needs, but is inclusive of the inner person, their spiritual and cerebral concerns and needs.
Be aware that yes, your wife needs more housekeeping, your son needs a car, your daughter a new phone, but my suggestion is to delve further. Know and understand the relationships, and inter-relationships between all your family, and throughout all your family. Know the goals and objectives each has, and how they will meet those aims.
Know what’s important to them and make it important to you.
Know them better than they know themselves.
You will be appreciated and loved for it and take reassurance in knowing you will get one step ahead of your family, for, as Mathew wrote (6:8), “Your father knows what you need, before you ask him.”