Family is that inner circle that holds our deepest desires, fears, and memories. Everyone has a family of some sort and they all change so much throughout the years. Most families span four or five living generations of amazing experiences. How often do we look back at these folks with appreciation and thanks? They helped us grow from crawling on the floor to becoming the awesome people we are now. Let’s see if we can give back a little more than we’re used to.
This post is part of a 14 part series on How to Be a Better Person. I’ve also super-duper fancied this group of posts up into an Amazon Kindle book. Check it out: Forget Perfect, Just Be Better: 101 Simple Ways to Grow in Relationships, at Work, in Life, and Through God.
1) Dining, No Whining
Family dinners were always great. Sure, you had a few snafus from time to time, but overall they were a wonderful time to catch up on old memories and see how things were going. But what about that last time you went out with only your dad or mom alone? Or what about your brother or sister? If it’s been a while, you might not remember how intimate and awesome these experiences can be.
There’s a huge break in the family dynamic when the kids leave the house for college, work, marriage, or the next big thing. Those bonds and comfort zones are immediately changed to something much less immediate. Something much less tangible and personal. Something distant, less frequent, and not as, well, family oriented. This is the logical next step in growing up, but how many of us take an extra step to refresh the bonds that got us where we are?
Just Be Better: Pick up the phone and ask a close family member out to dinner. Think of a couple of things to talk about ahead of time and plan to enjoy the heck out of it. Use this as a time to explore, grow, and see what their next step is. This is all about them. Oh yeah, and make sure you pay for the meal.
The bonds that bind us are the ones that made us. Respect the love.
2) Aunt You Gonna’ Call Someone?
Have you ever got a call out of the blue by someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time? You pick up your phone, see that caller ID, and wonder what’s going on. I don’t know about you, but my first reaction is usually hesitation. Not that I wouldn’t want to talk to an old friend or family member, but it makes you wonder. I mean, why would anyone call out of the blue after being pretty much a stranger for such a long time?
We’ve all picked up some bad habits through our journey from being wild and crazy kids to being thriving adults. And along that crazy path, we’ve been busy growing, doing, moving, and shaking. But have we made enough time to maintain all of the close relationships we want to maintain? Sure, we have Facebook® now and some of this dynamic is changing, but that’s nothing compared to a good old, friendly, “no, I don’t need anything I just want to talk” phone call.
Just Be Better: You might want to practice a few questions or topics ahead of time, but it certainly is not the main goal here. Call up the family member least likely to expect your call. Talk for at least five minutes about anything they want to. Be intimately interested in whatever they’re up to at the moment. Keep it short, sweet, and totally friendly.
Try some close to home random acts of kindness.
3) No Chore in Keeping Secrets
Do you know what I’m not a big fan of? Vacuuming. It’s far too much like mowing the lawn, except you don’t get the great smells, outdoor adventure, and the thrill of a big spinning blade. Sure, the house is air conditioned and the vacuum is a lot easier to push around, but it just doesn’t tickle my fancy as much. That’s why my wife and I decided I do the yard and she does the floors. But that’s also exactly the reason I sometimes do both.
We all have commitments we don’t particularly enjoy. They’re things we know we need to get done to keep our lives running smoothly, but they’re the last things on our minds as far as motivation goes. How would you feel if you had a rough day with the kids, traffic, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, and are starting to make your way to vacuum when you realize it’s already done? Nothing to make a big deal about, of course, but what a nice little gesture. A nice little love gift.
Just Be Better: Pick a chore that you know another family member absolutely hates. Wait for them to go out and do something that will let you do your thing secretly. Now do that chore they hate and do it awesomely. Don’t tell anyone and don’t expect anything in return. Let it be a secret. Forget all about it.
Be a loving, chore-doing, secret admirer.
4) Honey, Do It Because You Love Me
Ever worked with those people that take extra effort to make sure you know how hard they worked to help you? Or how about the coworker that always has an excuse, comment, or ugly look whenever you try to ask them to help you out with something? Maybe there’s a communication thing going on there, but talk about a horrible way to work through the day, right?
When’s the last time you saw a successful doctor, nurse, or dentist with a super-crabby attitude? What’s their secret to always being pleasant? How can they put up with the hundreds of different personalities and junk that gets thrown at them every day and still keep a healthy dose of cheer? They’ve latched on to something higher. They’ve found the real reason they do what they do and use it to propel them through all of the little junk that would grind anyone else to a halt. Something to be had there, my friend.
Just Be Better: Do whatever your spouse or significant other asks without any ugly faces, hesitation, or funky words. Do it because you love. Don’t tell them you’re doing it because of this exercise. Just do it out of the kindness of your heart and your realization that there’s much more to life than wasting time being grumpy. It doesn’t stick right away, but with practice it’ll become a habit.
Honey always gets more attention than vinegar. Rub some honey on it.
5) Email: The Next Generation
I remember passing paper notes in school. We’d always get caught and then get embarrassed in front of the class but it was fun. Then I experimented with writing to a pen pal in Indonesia. That was a really cool experience. To have direct communication, to experience such a personal format, and choosing to cherish every letter was an awesome experience. Think about it. Those letters took hours to write, stuff, lick, stamp, and deliver. Each one was a piece of art, history, and your life.
So much of that is lost now with tweets, texts, and Facebook®. Almost all communication hits the relationship pan with a flash and is gone forever. When’s the last time you stared at a text message over and over again, day upon day, week after week? The folks that are hurting the most is the younger generation. I recently read that they hate email because it’s too slow and takes too long. Really? It’s time to start building up relationships and bring all ages together again.
Just Be Better: Send an email to one of your younger family members. Ask about their interests, what they like, what they plan to do in the next couple of months, and anything else you think your younger-self would’ve wanted to know at that age. Try to get at least 140 characters out of them, if you can.
Bridge the age gap and keep the communication appreciation going.
6) Flower Power
Okay, I’ll admit it. I don’t buy flowers for my wife as often as I used to. I’m definitely not proud of that fact, but I acknowledge I’ll always have room to grow in showing my love for my wife. I make it a point to get lovely flowers on big days like St. Valentine’s day, our anniversary, and her birthday. But is that all? Isn’t she worth a few little random romantic reminders every once in a while. She did promise to put up with me for the rest of my life, after all.
We get comfortable. Extreme comfort in our jobs, friendships, relationships, and future. We often get to a point where we’re content with what’s going on. And instead of seeking to bring whatever it is to the next level, we try to keep the boat from rocking too much. Smooth sailing and avoiding those uncharted waters. It’s all about the fear of the unknown, the fear of failure, and yes, even the fear of success. We know, deep down, when we put in the extra effort to grow our lives, that we’ll eventually multiply everything.
Just Be Better: Buy one beautiful, love-capturing flower for the person you cherish the most. Don’t expect anything in return. Not a thanks, not a hug, not a kiss. Nothing. Give and express your love from the innermost corner of your heart.
Build your relationships one flower at a time.
7) Inquiring Minds Want to Know
Remember that nerdy looking dude in your sixth grade class? You know, the one with the high-water pants, the out-of-style LA Gear pumps, and a cracked tooth? He never talked to anyone and he never seemed to have an awesome time outside of the schoolwork. That was me, by the way.
Often, we don’t realize how much of an impact we can have in the lives of others if we choose to open ourselves up a bit. It’s entirely possible to be completely alone in a room full of people. It’s especially possible when you live alone and don’t see your family for months or years on end.
Just Be Better: Hope in the car and plan a quick visit to an in-law or lesser-noticed family member for an hour. Work it into your next vacation if they live a little farther off. Talk about their life. Let them enjoy your listening ears and attention.
Give them time to share and give yourself time to grow.
8) No One Expects the Familial Inquisition!
We already covered the young folks in your family and how far they’ve come in the information revolution. But what about your oldest generations and where they’re at? Do they tweet, text, or message in any other format than a phone call or a hand-written letter?
There’s another big downfall to the progression of flash-communications. We leave those who don’t adopt the new technology in the dust. More and more of the older generations are hearing and seeing less from their extended families. They don’t get on Facebook®, they don’t send emails, and they probably don’t even drive very far anymore. Let’s fix this.
Just Be Better: Write a letter to your grandma or grandpa covering the highlights of your last year. Be humble, be respectful, and remember your audience. Ask them for advice and see what kind of life-long lessons you can learn from those excellent sources of wisdom.
Reach out and write someone, soon.
9) Love the Parental Units
I never understood how much my mom and dad did for me until my wife and I had our first kid. Especially after that first six months or so. Woo-boy, what a ride! The diapers, the no sleeping, the crying, the patience, the teaching, the doctors. Oh, the humanity of it all.
We tend to take for granted things we don’t fully understand. A big fact of life is we don’t understand much of any topic unless we actually have some experience with the topic. But, we can begin to appreciate and trust in those who’ve lived. They may not show it, but they know more than you can imagine.
Just Be Better: It’s best if you do it in person, of course, but pick up the phone if you have to. Tell your mom and dad you love them. Be a little dramatic about it while being super genuine. Really put yourself in their position for a while and be deeply grateful for all they’ve done.
See the world from your parents’ eyes and give them a nice little thankful surprise.
9 Ideas to Help You Be A Better Person With Family
- Dining, No Whining
- Aunt You Gonna’ Call Someone?
- No Chore in Keeping Secrets
- Honey, Do It Because You Love Me
- Email: The Next Generation
- Flower Power
- Inquiring Minds Want to Know
- No One Expects the Familial Inquisition!
- Love the Parental Units
Showing love, care, and extra concern for those who are closest to you (and maybe even raised you!) is one of the best things you could do to become a better person. I look forward to you sharing you story with the rest of us. Let’s be better already!
Want to get the whole series in a convenient ebook?
Check it out: Forget Perfect, Just Be Better: 101 Simple Ways to Grow in Relationships, at Work, in Life, and Through God