Do you want a family filled with joy? I do. I want to build a family that plays together, laughs together, enjoys one another’s company, and looks forward to family gatherings with joyful anticipation. If you want to have that kind of family, there are two things you need to know. First, a joyful family has a history. They have memories of joyful times. Joyful families have intentionally created opportunities to enjoy one another’s company and build joyful memories with family. They may have built joyful memories by playing games with one another or going on day trips with one another. Perhaps they shared adventures or went on vacations (long ones or short ones) together. Their joyful moments may have been as simple as sharing a favorite song on the radio or a funny story about the day…or as complex as learning a new skill together. The family of joy may have built joyful memories on small things or big things…either way they intentionally seized opportunities to experience fun and joy as a family. This history of family fun grows stronger and more secure as they share pictures of their fun times together and retell the stories of their joyful history. Whatever they found joyful, they shared. Whatever joyful moments they shared created a history of joy; and that history of joy became a foundation of trust and anticipation upon which to build new joyful moments.
Second, a joyful family has a future. Having that foundation of joy builds anticipation for future joyful experiences. A history of sharing joyful moments builds intimacy and trust. Each joyful moment pulled family bonds tighter and drew family members closer. Building on a history of joy allows each person to remain vulnerable and transparent with one another, open to new experiences of joyful interactions. A family who builds on a history of joy looks forward to a future filled with more laughter and fun.
Sandwiched between a history of joy and the future anticipation of joy, joyful families enjoy time with one another today. This all creates a wonderful cycle of joy, doesn’t it? The joy we have as a family today becomes our history of joy tomorrow…and that history of joy lays the foundation we need to anticipate the joy we can have tomorrow. Start the joyous cycle today by creating moments of joy right now.
One of my favorite Halloween costumes was a man wearing a slip over his clothing. On the slip he had written words like “denial,” “repression,” “sublimation,” “id,” “libido,” “superego,” and other Freudian terms. He said he was “A Freudian Slip.” I know, a little geeky…but I liked his costume. My other favorite costume is one that looks like a person riding a horse or broom. I encouraged my daughter to dress up with two of her friends, all in black, so they could kneel next to each other and be an ellipsis. Alright, I know, a little strange. But what would Halloween be if not a little strange? Those are silly Halloween costumes we might wear once a year but we may wear more serious masks around our family all year round. Seriously, have you ever hidden behind a “mask” around your loved ones? Have you hidden your true self behind a façade in the presence of your family? I have. Unfortunately, hiding our true self behind a mask will eventually cause serious problems in your family. So, as you prepare to take off your Halloween mask, consider taking off these masks as well?
· The Superhero Mask. Some family members wear a Superhero Mask. Whenever a family member encounters a difficulty, small or large, the Superhero swoops in to rescue and save. Not able to get the homework done? Never fear, Super Dad is here. Conflict with a brother? No need to negotiate, Super Mom to the rescue. Is little Johnnie whining about a meal he does not like? Stop those tears, Super Cook will swoop in with a delicious meal of little Johnnie’s choice. Unfortunately, the Superhero Mask teaches our family that they never have to suffer or work to resolve a difficulty. Any time they experience a difficulty they can simply wait for a family member to jump in and save them. The one hiding behind a Superhero Mask robs his family of the opportunity to gain strength, resilience, and independence. He robs his family of the opportunity to learn the joys of persistence. Instead of saving his family, he enslaves them behind bars of an entitlement mentality that waits for someone else to do the work. Taking this mask off means allowing family members to own their own problems, suffer their own consequences, and even endure some hardship…all while the superhero remains unmasked and uninvolved.
· The Everything’s-Fine Mask. This mask is especially insidious between spouses. From the outside the person looks and acts like everything is fine. On the inside, however, they are seething with anger, overwhelmed with sorrow, frustrated by lack of cooperation, irritated with the lack of help, or boiling over with any number of other emotions. The Everything’s Fine Mask hides the person’s true feelings and robs the family of any opportunity to change and grow more intimate. The person behind the mask eventually feels taken advantage of and may become resentful…or even blow up in anger. Yes, the Everything’s-Fine Mask is a time bomb waiting to explode. Take this mask off by speaking the truth in love. Be vulnerable. Remove the mask and reveal your true feelings. Lovingly let your family know what bothers you. Then, stick around for an honest and loving discussion that can lead to the resolution of any frustration and anger that lurks behind the mask. You will discover that your family truly does love you and is more than willing to work with you in banishing the Everything’s-Fine Mask!
· The It’s-All-Your-Fault Mask. You know this mask when you hear those infamous words, “It’s not my fault. I wouldn’t have done that if you hadn’t….” The person wearing the It’s-All-Your-Fault Mask casts blame on everyone but themselves. They refuse to take responsibility for any misbehavior, hurtful words, or wrong choices. This mask is humbling to remove. It involves accepting responsibility for one’s own actions. Removing the mask may mean becoming humble enough to apologize for hurtful words or rude actions. Removing this mask and humbly accepting personal responsibility is also empowering. It means accepting power over one’s choices and growing in integrity. As we become known as a person of integrity, relationships improve and grow more intimate. So, take a risk. Humbly remove the It’s-All-Your-Fault Mask and accept responsibility for your actions…starting in your family.
· The Nobody-Loves-Me Mask. The Nobody-Loves-Me Mask sneaks up on us at the worst times. You’ve seen it. The person wearing this mask begins to mope around and look dejected. When asked, they simply reply, “Nobody loves me.” After further questioning you may discover that this person feels unloved because of an unintentionally hurtful statement. No one else knew that the statement bothered them. Rather than put on the Everything’s-Fine Mask, they put on the Nobody-Loves-Me Mask. They withdraw and sulk, silently waiting for other family members to notice them, chase them, and express undying love for them. Not realizing why this person is sulking, the family leaves them alone. The person wearing the mask takes this to mean—you guessed it, “Nobody loves me.” The best way to remove this mask is through communication. Do not expect the rest of your family to read your mind. Simply express your need for clarification on the hurtful statement. Express your desire for some affirmation or loving attention. In other words, quit sulking, take off the mask, and interact with your family. You will soon discover how much they truly do love you and want to involve you in the family activities.
Enjoy your Halloween activities this year. But, at the end of the night, when you take off your Halloween mask, take off these four masks as well. No need to be the Superhero…in fact, you can become a true hero when you let your family members experience the consequences of their own behavior. Don’t hide behind a mask. Speak the truth in love; humbly accept responsibility for your own mistakes; apologize when necessary; communicate with your family; and clarify your own need for affection. Although it may prove difficult to take these masks off, the end results will make your effort well worth your while!