THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY
Technically, family is a matter of DNA... But nobody who says “I want a family,” means “I want a group of genetically similar people.”
They want an unbreakable bond of unconditional love and warmth. A soft place to go to when everything seems difficult.
And sometimes, getting those things means looking outside our genetic circles.
We don’t have to swear allegiance based solely on the blood running through our veins.
Sure, blood may be thicker than water, but water is equally necessary to sustain life.
Sharing the same brown eyes or pointed chin or wide nose doesn’t make someone loyal or loving. Sometimes our families are toxic. We don’t all come from “white-picket-fence” backgrounds, where family members always have our back and our best interests in mind. We’re born into our family lives by chance and if fate deals us a rough one, we can always break off and make our own, either branching out from, or in some cases, away from the family tree.
Sometimes though, we’re lucky enough to be born into a wonderful, close-knit unit, but then grow up and move away and don’t see them often enough. When that happens, our friends become like “surrogate family members”, making sure we never have to spend a special occasion feeling homesick or not being able to share and create new memories and experiences.
For whatever the reason that we can’t be with our blood-bound families of origin, there’s so much to be said for choosing someone to stand in their place. Emphasis on “choosing”, because unlike actual family, we get to pick them:people who share similar views, people who understand, people who accept, people who forgive, people who love.
Friends who become family see us for who we are now and not through the lens of someone who knew us through our awkward, wild, confused or even straight-up stupid phases of life. They don’t see us for who we used to be, or who they wish we had become. There’s no prejudice based on the stupid stuff we did when we were too immature to know better, or which proverbial tribe we believed we came from.
They love us for the people we have grown into, and are there for the growth we have yet to experience.
They are a support system because they want to be, not because of some sense of family obligation. When our true friends help us, we know it’s a truly genuine act.
Of increasing importance
Friends also become increasingly important to health and happiness as people age.
They’re so crucial, in fact, that having supportive friendships in old age was found to be a stronger predictor of wellbeing than having strong family connections.
While it’s true that family members are often the people who provide caregiving support to the elderly, this can also create a sense of obligation.
These relationships are certainly beneficial and often vital, but they may not provide as much joy as those with long-time friends do.
Of course, people can share powerful friendships with their siblings, spouses, children and other family members, and that’s a great gift. The point is, the more support and positive interactions, the better. The important thing is having people you can trust and rely on, for the good times as well as the bad, whether that takes the form of blood-bound family or “chosen family”.
This “chosen family” is truly a gift from above and there’s a level of comfort and familiarity that you just don’t achieve with regular “acquaintances”.
These are the friendships and relationships that are next-level, and on a personal level... I’m here for them, because they’re here for me: the family I chose in the absence of my own.
Never forget the power of “family”, whether blood-bound or chosen. Make sure to thank your parents - blood-bound or adopted - every day, call your siblings and friends to see how they are, and cherish every moment you have with them, because without them, you would not be who you are today.
Family is the best and most important gift in our lives, and it is important to embrace and appreciate it every day.