by dr. susan nettleton
During holidays, our thoughts are often directed to family. The ancient philosopher Confucius taught that the family is the nucleus of the greater society. As such, when the individuals within the family are each clear and accepting of their role in the family, there is peace. Peace in the family becomes the building block of peace in the entire community, which is the building block of peace in the world. But the cultural foundation of the time and place of Confucius had a specific, often rigid, uniform code of what was required of each family member (based on their age, gender, birth order, family position, etc.). In our modern culture, there is no such uniform code or social agreement. On the one hand, this is a source of disorder and conflict. On the other hand, it holds the potential for creativity, freedom and flexibility to life in relationship—a source of resilience and adaptability. There is no longer one model that fits all people, all situations, and all families. Family is what we make of it. It is not necessarily dependent on blood or generational lines, or tradition, or even a fixed configuration. We have the space to deeply connect with and commit to others based on natural inclination, and we form “spiritual family” bonds. But peace and acceptance of our role within our family, however we define it, remains a core part of a world at peace.