Written March 2021
So this past weekend a recording surfaced of a phone call between Gospel legend Kirk Franklin and his son. During the gut-wrenching call, listeners were privy to hearing a volatile exchange of expletives and a high volume of contention between a father and son. Unfortunately due to the land of social media, what should have been a private family episode has turned into a public debate full of judgement and finger pointing.
For me, the only thing that struck me with this situation was the amount of people condoning verbal abuse. While I hold no judgement towards Kirk Franklin or his son, I had to dive deeper into the number of comments I began to read. Common sayings such as, "Respect your elders." to "Who hasn't been cussed out by a parent before?" began to surface to the point where it became disturbing.
Why do we all normalize toxic behaviors within families?
For me, I had to view this debate from a different lens. I have been very transparent regarding the trials I have faced within my own family. Trust me, I understand how it feels to have pious relatives that do not necessarily live up to the image they uphold in the pulpit and in the pews. It is very frustrating when you are on the receiving end of mistreatment from individuals who are seen as grand religious figures. In addition, I also empathize with anyone who was had the displeasure of being cursed out, berated, and belittled by a family member. It is a humiliating feeling that reduces you to the core. While some view it as tough love, it is disturbing to see the lack of respect in the way some of us interact with our family members.
This incident shined a light on a sad fact for so many families, which is that plenty of us have internal problems and absolutely no family is perfect. I think it is extremely easy for us as adults to pass along generational habits and practices as parents, etc. Some of us were raised very sternly where being cursed out by a parent was and still is commonplace. The danger in this thinking is that the lack of respect is not notated in this way of behaving. As parents as well as adults, children are still worthy of respect. For me, tough and love do not hold the same company. Whether you are 3 years old, 23, 33, 43 or 93 years old, respect should be a must. Grown, adult male sons should be uplifted and not emasculated. Grown, adult daughters should be revered and not belittled.
I do understand fully that we all were raised with a particular code of respect and how we are obligated to address and treat our elders. In return, it is important that we all should practice that respect should be reciprocated. Again, I am sure I do not share the "popular" opinion regarding this. In addition, this is in no way of bashing Kirk Franklin. None of us hold the title as "perfect parent" and I understand that we are all as humans fall short. My thoughts on this is beyond this celebrity fodder. I am saddened by how as a whole we excuse and celebrate toxicity amongst families. It is wrong and abusive on all ends and we need to get to an emotionally healthier place in how we view things.
As a parent, I have always told my kids that any parent that claims they have never made a mistake with their kids is likely a huge liar. Being a parent is absolutely the hardest job in the world. Children are not born with instructions and a warning label on the heel of their foot. It takes a lot of hard work and unfortunately, a lot of us became parents while we were still healing and not completely whole. Our children are a reflection of our own character and rearing. In any form of therapeutic healing, everything goes back to our childhood. Things that we may see as minor, can be very damaging to the way in which people function and live as adults.
A lot of families have serious contention, misunderstanding and dysfunction that we are conditioned to view as "normal". Under no circumstances should we be cursing each other out and disrespecting each other in families. I preach self-love quite a bit. One of the main reasons I echo the sentiments of self-love is because a lot of us are hurting and have not received the genuine love we yearn for from our family. Family heartbreak is the biggest heartache there is. Our families are our first introduction to what love is supposed to be. Imagine how it feels to not receive genuine love from the people we share a bloodline with? We need to seriously take a bigger look at how we're raised and understand that some of the practices we think are normal and end up passing down to our children are truly examples of replicating severe generational curses.
Imagine how healthier we would all be if we took the time to revere and normalize healthy lifestyles instead of celebrating toxic, dysfunctional behavior? I've read too many, "All parents cuss out their kids." "Kids bring it out of us and that is how it is." Really? Is that really how we should address our children and family members as a whole? Should we really provoke that much anger out of each other within families in the first place?
Last year, I came to a crossroads when it came to my own family. I experienced the last straw of being on the receiving end of disrespect from some of my family members as well. At the end of the day, respect is not a guarantee for everyone. Respect needs to be earned. I have seen the same meme float around for quite some time stating: "Just because they are your (insert family member) doesn't mean it is ok to tolerate abuse." Now mind you, I am paraphrasing. However, I am sure everyone reading this blog knows exactly which meme I am referring to.
It is never too late to heal and change particular behaviors that we were conditioned to view as normal. While the damage may be irreversible, it is important that we take the time to work on ourselves and correct any behaviors that have hurt others. Some families do not even believe in the power of a simple and sincere apology. Again, we are all human and we make mistakes. It is easy to let our emotions get the best of us, especially with family members that we simply do not get along with. However, we all should work on how to hold onto to our emotions when interacting with our family members and not give in to corrosive, hurtful actions that are so damaging that it is hard to come back from.
Please look deeper into the definition of respect the next time you address your family members that you have found yourself in moments of contention with. There are so many layers involved in why some of us have cracks within our family: misunderstandings, miscommunication, past hurt, trauma, unforgiveness and in a lot of instances, abuse. Take some time to really reflect on the real definition of love and sincerity. Remember that your family members are people, too and everyone has their breaking points. In addition, remember that you are not obligated to absorb toxic abusive behavior from anyone, regardless of the branch position they hold on your family tree. Geaux Love Ya'Self and give out the same respect that you would like in return. Review and reflect on which relationships are worth fighting for, which ones deserve some space and lastly which ones should be severed. At the end of the day, healthy relationships are what we all are in need of. Love should always be the key and nothing less.