TRANSCRIPT: Good morning, Five Minute Families. Thank you for joining us this morning. The citizens of the United States of America have been facing the realities of disunity in recent years. Of course, elements of disunity have always been there, but there are times when disunity rises to a fever-pitched and must be addressed anew. This idea of American unity and disunity got me to thinking about how a family moves forward when disunity reigns. Unity is defined as “oneness; the quality or state of being made one; or the state of those who are in full agreement.” We all know that families are not always united. We do not continuously have one purpose in mind or common interests that keep us connected.
So, what can we do when we are not united or feel distinctly divided? We suggest another tactic, especially if unity seems more of a stretch in this season of your family life… Solidarity. Solidarity means providing mutual support within a group or to a particular group. Often, unity and solidarity are used interchangeably, yet I don’t think they are synonymous. Unity can simply happen with like-minded folks, but family solidarity takes a different level of intentionality. I am not talking about being angry at the person who angered your child; I am not talking about agreeing with your spouse when you completely disagree in your heart. I am talking about choosing to take a stand and support someone who is different than you, even though you may share a last name or a home.
I don’t agree with everything my children do, especially my adult children, but I support them in their efforts to become God-honoring individuals. And, that is going to look a lot different for each one of them and from what I thought it would look like. But, I am committed to my family – to their well-being and to their growth, so I choose a position of solidarity.
Mike Tenney suggests we consider solidarity as ‘empathy plus community.’ When we have compassion for and choose to try to understand someone else’s experience in the world, we create stronger relationships. So, how can a family create an environment of solidarity?
First, if there have been hurts or difficulties, we must acknowledge what has happened and what those differences are. Instead of ignoring them, we recognize that we each have different experiences to consider.
Second, we must work to establish trust (or reestablish trust if it was broken in a time of conflict). No one needs to be someone they are not, and we each need to accept that the path God will take each of us may look different. As we hold one another up in prayer, we can work to be trustworthy and honest with one another. Maybe one person in the family is liberal and another is conservative. Work together to practice listening and effective, respectful debate. That way, trust is built that each person is heard without emotions flying high.
Third, let’s find something fun and outside our usual activities to do together. We need to go outside each person’s comfort zone and find something that allows us to connect. We cannot just focus on our differences. Family members can work to find something together they will enjoy, even if there are a few dud moments in the process.
Fourth, if someone in the family is struggling, spend time with them. Mom or dad, maybe your teen is stressed and having a hard time cleaning her room; maybe chatting while cleaning together will help. Or, simply sitting together in the mess and allowing her to vent without feeling judged by the mess around her. You get the point. Pray and see how you can simply be together to encourage authentic communication.
And, finally, sacrifice with your family member. 1 Corinthians 12:26a tells us about the church that “If one member suffers, all suffer together.” Some simple examples of sacrifice to better understand and stand in solidarity with one another include not eating sushi when your pregnant wife cannot. Or, not eating a biscuit at the restaurant when your gluten-free child is there. Mike Tenney explains, “When we suffer with a person, we come to understand the way they experience the world, and we can unite our strength to theirs.”
He continues, “Simply imagining myself in someone else’s shoes doesn’t heal the divide. How many times have I seen a video about people I could help and realize that I feel compassion for them, but then don’t actually do something about it? Solidarity goes a step further and puts empathy into action. Solidarity actually walks a mile in another’s shoes — or at least walks next to them. It’s hard to hate people you are sharing a meal with, having fun with, or building something together with. This principle is enshrined famously in Jesus’ Golden Rule — ‘treat others as you would have them treat you.’”
Five Minute Families, we pray you will walk in solidarity and work to find common ground with one another in order to enrich your home, your community, and the world. May God be glorified in your lives this week. Be blessed!