If you are African, then you will know what I am writing about. Let me set the stage for you...
A family member has friction with another family member. Rather than address it, they passive-aggressively share it with other family members. Then one family member (who really wants harmony), calls a family meeting because they want peace...but they don't realize everyone in the room isn't on the same wavelength. Enter the gathering of the "elders" to sort out the issue.
We have two possible outcomes:
Scenario 1: People blow up, someone storms out angry and leaves the family group chat.
Scenario 2: People say they will do better but they are lying. They just don't feel like being bothered.
I am tired of African family meetings. Someone make them stop, please.
Growing up, my parents were well respected in their community. As such, many family issues found their way to our doorstep and inevitably, our family living room. I would watch one uncle report some daughter-in-law or wife who wasn't living up to the secret family code and everyone would tell her how she could change to make said patriarch happy.
The women were always the culprit because well, we were Africans, and African men were the old guards of societal norms (patriarchy at its best). I would silently watch these meetings unravel, always ending in the woman apologizing to keep the peace. Until one day, they called the meeting on me.
My first family meeting was at the age of seven. My grandfather called my uncles from across state lines so they could confront my mother (and I) on how disrespectful I was. The background story? I did something my grandfather didn't like so he hit me with his shoe.
The issue was, he didn't know I was a vindictive little girl who refused to bow to bullying. What would follow would be a series of back and forth exchanges of me letting my grandfather know it was my Daddy's house (not his house), and we didn't hit people with shoes there. Yes, I did it. No, I don't regret it to this day.
So, I'm gonna go a little feminist on you in this post. My issue with African family meetings is they are often situated in the assumption that there is a "right" and "wrong" side of the issue. People rarely walk into them asking questions. Rather, there is a boatload of accusations and unspoken social contracts that no one agreed to (like, no one). At the end of the day, nothing is accomplished and relationships are worse off than they started.
A few years ago, my family had what I considered my final family meeting, which turned into me refereeing two separate factions and being told I wasn't "being fair". Girl, after that, when people call family meetings, I graciously (or rudely) bow out. They don't work. Oftentimes, family members who refuse to address their issues individually will weaponize unassuming bystanders, destroying multiple family relationships when the issue could have been resolved in. A simple one on one.
With that being said, here are my alternative recommendations to our outdated African family meetings:
1. If you are angry, it's best you keep your opinion to yourself.
I know how to blow up. In fact, for many years, I was a master of lighting it up for my family. They could always count on me to tell my truth in the rudest, most sarcastic tone there was. I have learned that while what I say in the heat of the moment might satisfy my burning desire to end it all, it really doesn't help me or anyone in the long run. So I exercise silence if I think my words will destroy.
2. Did you try one on one first?
I know. NOVEL idea, right? These family meetings solve nothing. Everyone comes in with their own agenda, whether it's calling someone out or making themselves look good (but it really makes them look bad). As opposed to speaking with people one on one from the heart (which should always be the first step), these passive aggressors hide behind the veil of conspiracy thinking no one sees them (we see you, hi Hata). They are divisive and do not choose peace.
3. Check Your Motives.
Your number one goal should always be peace. It should always be to address the matter on a one-on-one without attacking or assuming. If your attempts to address, confront and reconcile don't work, then it's time for the b-word -- BOUNDARIES. We can add a D here also -- DISTANCE.
4. Understand that everyone is entitled to their opinion and lived experience.
It is a complete waste of time to try and convince people who are hell-bent on being right. So let them be right, and send them packing to the left. Queues music: "Keep talking that mess that's fine, could you walk and talk at the same time?" Seriously, just because you are in the same family doesn't mean you have to agree or be bullied into a mindset. Let it rock.
I know that sounds harsh, but if you listened to episode six of season two of the podcast, You May Have to Wrestle for Your Rest, then you would know, sometimes you gotta wrestle your rest right out of the hands of family members.
There are a few things the Bible says about gatherings, their purposes, and potential outcomes:
Any gathering that does not intend to bring peace and reconciliation is what I consider an evil gathering.
It usually leads to the downfall of the innocent. If you ever find yourself in a so-called family meeting where people are asking you to defend yourself, don't. Let God defend you and watch for the downfall of those who orchestrated the gathering against you. Harsh. I know.
Did somebody come at you sideways? Be nice to them.
If you really feel like cursing them out, say and send a prayer to them. The bible teaches us that we should pray for our enemies (yes, that includes the ones in your own household) and that ultimately, your kind deeds are heaping hot coals on their head.
Ok, don't pray for your enemy but then secretly want hot coals on their head. But know that if you choose the path of peace you are honoring God, or at the very least driving your enemies up the wall because they think it's a plot to trap them (smiles).
After you have extended a gut check and the Lord has let folk know you ain't the one to mess with, extend love, WITH BOUNDARIES.
Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. [...] But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. - Matthew 5:9,44-48 -
I tried it with my own family members. Plus, God loves the family. He really wants to see them healed and whole. That's hard to remember in the heat of the moment, but this is truly the way of peace and the path we should go. Sometimes family members don't leave you much of a choice. In that instance, my advice is always to protect your purpose. You can hear more about that in episode 14 of season 1 of our podcast.
That is all for today, te quiero mucho!.
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