When You are the Family Ogre

Ogre: def.  1. A person who is felt to be seen as particularly cruel, brutish, or hideous.  2. Beings that are usually depicted as large, hideous, humanoid monsters. 

O.k., maybe you aren’t large, cruel, abnormal, problematic, a misfit, or hideous, but that doesn’t mean your family doesn’t see you that way. No, they may never come out and say it , but in their eyes, you certainly don’t fit the family mold.

Ever felt that way, like in every decision you make you can’t win with them, you are always somehow the “bad guy” or a kind of “humanoid monster?” Nothing is ever really good enough, and you will never be “one of them” no matter how hard you try. Every family visit turns out to be stressful though you try to convince yourself, “this time it will be different.”  And when it comes to who is at fault for any family messes or stresses, you are the first to appear on their radar screen, no matter how clear any contradictory evidence appears.

Raise your right hand and repeat after me, “Hi, my name is _____________, and I am the family Ogre” (you can add a nostril snort here for effect). Seriously, go ahead, snort away!

So, what do you do?  Here are few suggestions from firsthand experience.

1. Curb expectations- This is a tough one, because we all want to have close family relationships, to be accepted, and respected by the people who matter most. But the truth may be, this just isn’t going to happen to the level you desire or need.  That’s a hard pill to swallow, especially if you are person of faith who believes in the best and the promise of possibilities. No, don’t give up, keep on trying and working towards gaining the best relationships you can have with them, but with a more realistic set of expectations. I will add some more important thoughts on the specifics of doing this in #5 and #6 below, but the truth is, you may never have the dad you desire, deserve or need, you may never gain the respect with your family that should be granted, that brother or sister may never take you seriously.  To keep on expecting those things will only lead to a kind bitterness and disappointment that will do more harm than good.  Curbing expectation means learning to love and make the most of what is reality in the relationship, no matter how lacking the reality might be. If you are focused on what isn’t and your disappointment over it, you may miss out on making the most of what is.

2. Be willing to admit fault- Relationships don’t happen on an island, you have had your part to play in it. Yes, the areas of lack in the relationship may be primarily the other person’s doing, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have some fault in it. So, here’s another tough one… try to admit every fault of yours you can in the relationship. It’s amazing the healing that can occur when you are simply willing to point something out that was an error on your part, no matter how small or insignificant it may be. No, don’t take the blame where you shouldn’t or rationalize other people’s unhealthy behavior. However, being willing to own your own stuff may open the door for the other person to own some stuff on their end. Then, all the sudden, healing has a chance. I know, you may find that as you admit some fault on your part, they throw it back at you and shove it in your face, never looking at their own mistakes. But, you did the right thing, and you can have a deeper sense of peace and perspective because so.

3. Be yourself- For some, being around family is like Superman being around kryptonite, your power and personality vanishes and you always seem to lose yourself in the end. As the family Ogre, it’s going to be tempting to try to fit in. Furthermore, it’s going to be even more tempting to allow the family dysfunctions to take the wind out of the sails of your joy, peace, and personality. Sometimes, family just has a way of bringing out the worst in us and unraveling progress we have made spiritually, emotionally, and even physically.  Do everything you can to steady the ship and be yourself, no matter what. They might not respect nor stay true to who you are, but you had better. Never let the lack of integrity, love, and character in another dictate the same in you.

4. Love from a distance- Extending grace and love to a difficult, unhealthy family environment may mean learning to love from a distance instead of rescuing the situation or continually placing yourself in it. No, don’t stop loving, but rather love from a distance. The truth is, we can’t change people, only God can. But, we can change how we relate to them. And in doing so, that may create the context for change to occur. Sometimes, in an effort to heal relationships of their unhealth, we actually end up enabling them.  Our lack of healthy boundaries, unwillingness to say “no,” and refusal to have the tough conversations do more harm than good. The very change we hope to see, is the very change our spineless behavior is preventing.  We should never become the evil that is done against us, but that doesn’t mean God desires for us to become a “doormat for Jesus” either. Saying “no” can be as important as saying “yes.” Lovingly confronting issues an speaking the truth in love can be as important as forgiving, being patient, and overlooking an offense.

5. Get your deep needs met with God and close friends- Expecting our families, as great as families can be, to fulfill our deep needs of acceptance, identity, value, and self worth is an unrealistic expectation.  Jesus can and wants to be your full supply of the deep, core needs in your life. God blesses us through family, but never wants us to look to them for what we can only get through Jesus. Fill up on your identity, value, and worth in Christ before every family visit or conversation. That way, you won’t be trying to eat from the table of your family relationships a meal that only your heavenly Father can truly provide. Looking to your family for those deep needs will only leave you hungry, thirsty, and frustrated at some level or another. Let your family be a blessing, not your supply line. Then, when your family relationships are going well, you are blessed because of it. Yet, when they aren’t, you are not unraveled, famished, and sent in a tail spin. Furthermore, posture yourself in your family relationships as a source of blessing out of the supply you have in Christ. Seek to give, not receive. See them as a ministry, not a meal.

6. Try to be prepared- Sometimes, when it comes to family and family visits/conversations, preparedness is your best chance of survival. If you are married, making sure you are on the same page ahead of time about topics or issues that may come up can be vital. Get yourself centered on who you are and getting in the right frame mind and heart ahead of time can be critical. Remember, being around family can be like Superman being around kryptonite. So, as best you can, be prepared. Don’t set your expectations too high, don’t look to your family to be your deep supply, find ways to give and bless, look for things to build on, stay true to being who God created you to be, and trust Him all the way!  Go get em Ogre!

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3 responses to “When You are the Family Ogre

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