When Family is More of a Stumbling Block than a Blessing

I am not talking about a wife or husband that you should have entered into a covenant relationship with before God declaring to love “for better or worse, in sickness and health, till death do you part“, nor the children from such a (hopefully happy!) reunion but I’m talking about siblings and parents.  People often go on about the virtues of family relations but what of those family members who are hateful, sarcastic, racist, spiteful, jealous and care nothing for you or your family?  I believe that there is such a time to cut off such people if they continually misunderstand, misquote, misrepresent and misalign you or your family members (wife and/or kids) with no sign of repentance or forgiveness.  This is especially true if non-Christian family members continue to mock your beliefs and show a complete disregard for the Word of God.  The worst case, biblically, is when someone falsely calls themselves a Christian and yet lives a devilish lifestyle, continually mocking the Word of God in the way they live with no sign of relenting.   “”If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) Of course Jesus is not teaching his disciples to hate their families, but that “loyalty to God takes precedence over loyalty to family when the two come in conflict“.  “The word “hate” in the Bible is often used to express priority and preference rather than emotional hatred.”

In talking with several other people who have lived outside of their native country for a number of years, I have found that family relations can often go sour.  Many of the small-minded family members never once ask about how life is overseas or anything to do with your life.  Instead, when you visit them on vacation they will sit around and talk about themselves and trivial things as if they couldn’t give a hoot about you.  Imagine living overseas for 15 plus years and being able to count the number of times you have received calls from your “family” on one hand.  Not to say that you haven’t talked plenty of times on the phone – it’s just always you that has been doing the calling…or writing…or flying thousands of miles and spending thousands of dollars to visit ungrateful people who don’t really seem to enjoy your company anyway.  If that is family, no thank you!

Those of us who are in “international marriages” have an added bonus.  Sometimes racist remarks (sometimes hidden in “cute” jokes, other times in open insults) reveal their true feelings about race, thereby confirming that these are people not worth investing ones time, emotions, energy or money.

That is to say, one shouldn’t wish them any harm or continue to hold on to the hurt they’ve dished out to you.  One can pray for such a people, but from a distance.  A “Live and let live” attitude perhaps rather than “live and let die”.  But one should not fool themselves into thinking that you have some twisted obligation to let people (No, not even “family”) treat you with any less respect they’d show to a complete stranger.

Life is far too short to waste your time on those who care nothing for you.  If a branch is rotten, you must cut it off.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his  father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law–a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone  who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:34-37)

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16 responses to “When Family is More of a Stumbling Block than a Blessing

  1. You are so right about this experience; I have also experienced this kind of thing with family and friends while living abroad. Family and friends seem to care nothing about your experience living abroad; you’re right in that they just sit around talking about trivial things while hardly acknowledging you have been gone from their lives for sometimes YEARS!! Interesting post… I can hardly imagine what it’s like being in an interracial marriage with the close-mindedness of many Americans (or Canadians in your case!)

    • Sad to hear you have had this same experience, Cathy. If I told you some of the things that have been said by my so-called family, your jaw would probably drop to the ground. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Really great post! I’ve had the same problems going back home for visits. There should be a line of respect because we are family, but alas none can be found. I find that these relatives are either intimated by what I’ve done and seen, therefore they have nothing to talk to me about. It’s sad.

    • Jennifer,
      Glad you like this post. This is something that’s been on my mind for a long time and I hesitated to write, looking for the right words. Still not sure I worded it just right. It’s sad to hear that quite a few expats have similar experiences. It makes it all the more fantastic to hear of families that are quite supportive or to experience family as it was intended as I have with my beautiful Filipino in-laws. Yes, maybe they are intimidated. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Jennifer. You are carving out quite a life for yourself in Sardinia. Let me know if you ever write a book. Would love to read it. All the best!

  3. Kerry-Lynn Bouman

    I agree Andy!
    You just have to ‘let it go’, we cannot change people.
    We have to surround ourselves with positive, supportive people!
    I hear you Brother!

  4. Hi Andy,
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. This is actually one of my fav posts by you. Not to say that I am happy with this situation, but because it is very raw and I could totally feel the emotion that went into typing this all out. I am sorry that you have had some of those terrible experiences. It boggles my mind how some “family” members can treat each other like total crap. I feel that at times, it is because they take each other for granted. They feel like no matter what, this person is always going to be my “family” member whether it be a sibling or a parent. So that makes them feel like they can say or do anything they want and bare no consequences to their actions.
    I really liked what you said “If a branch is rotten, you must cut it off”. Sad but true eh?

    Keep these posts coming, my blogger friend. And hey, I think you are pretty awesome. :)

  5. I can totally relate, and perhaps more so because Muslims are really “weird” to Canadian family members, more so than “practicing Christians” who are also equally weird;) but less visually so I have been told. Anything racsist I cannot tolerate and will never. Loving your family never meant obeying them in anything wrong. God/Allah gives us family for any of those we have left behind for His sake, so that is the balm. When my family cut themselves off from me, I got a mother figure from one Muslim woman and one Christian woman (who was oddly more understanding of how alienating practicing one’s religion can be lol as I am sure you know), and a new “uncle” to and dear husband to mend the void a little from my father’s distance due to religion and perceived culture. Allah reward you and help you and change them to know you are the same person or a better one, and there when they need you so that should be all that’s needed, ameen.

  6. Thanks for sharing your own personal story, Princess. I love this thought of yours: “Loving your family never meant obeying them in anything wrong.” Amen! Christians never have to lose TOO much sleep over lost family as the Lord declares in Scripture, ” Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” Having many Christian brothers and sisters in Christ makes ours quite a large worldwide family which is thicker than blood. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29) Thanks again for commenting. It’s good to see you on the blog! :-)

  7. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29) Agreed on that.

    Thank you for sharing your feelings. I agree, when things are doen for God’s sake He gives you a larger family even in this life and that isn’t the reward that He promised for doing so, so that’s ALOT of balm.

  8. Andy, that is quite a testimony! I feel for you. I can’t imagine what it would be like, to have that indifference from your own family. I’m grateful for having family and friends who actually care enough to ask about my life, the challenges of living abroad, and the future. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision to ‘cut-off’ some people from your life. But I’m also sure it has blessed your wife. The Bible does tell us to ‘leave and cleave’!
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Hi, Vanita. I know it may sound harsh to some to “cut off some people from your life” but when you have lived overseas for more than 15 years and they have already cut you off, it’s more of a recogition than anything. Of course my wife would love to know her in-laws but not if it involves so much negativity, foul-language (which seems to be the mother tongue of many Canadians), racial discrimination, hearing about their shameful lifestyles and all of their endless drama. When you have a family like mine, leaving and cleaving is an easy thing to do! ;-)

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