You can choose your friends. But you can’t choose your family. Maybe the best life comes from the combination of the things you choose and the things you experience – just imagine if we controlled everything or nothing. How impoverished our lives would be!
We all have biases, inadequacies and character shortcomings. Other people, including family members, help us understand and overcome them. Some people coach, guide and mentor us. Others penalise us. Some just listen and commiserate with us. Or help us put the little things in perspective. All feedback is good, even if just to make us realise that all feedback isn’t necessarily fair or accurate.
We need friends, who share our interests and values. But we need family too – they’re there for the long haul, so have to be more patient with us than our friends. And help us with our roots, grandparent and sibling relations, being a close partner and perhaps parenthood. Probably the older we get, the less our friends actually need our support. But that isn’t true for the younger generations – our kids, our nieces and nephews.
Authority is familiar around families, but is awkward in peer friendships. So perhaps family experiences help us more in our professional life than friends can. We adjust to generational differences in a family setting, helpful training for the workplace. We adjust to hierarchies in families, again useful for the workplace. We accommodate a wide variety of personality types in our extended families, helpful for customer relations in the workplace.
Perhaps the final word comes on our gravestone. Universally, our name is linked to that of our families, no matter how fabulous our friends were in life. But that’s ok. They are cool enough to cope.