Blood at Christmas

20151228 Blood at ChristmasSome think that family is simply defined as being blood-related, and “you do anything for blood.” Others say that family begins with blood, but eventually relies on people’s character, such that a friend might become family while a father becomes an acquaintance. I am of the latter conviction. Since Christmas has just passed, I thought I’d reflect on what makes family, and see if you have anything to add to that reflection.

The conviction that “we should do anything for blood” is flawed. It demands sacrificing yourself for people who don’t necessarily deserve it. If your sibling is a wreck, you stand beside him anyway. If your parents crush your spirits, you still help them when they need it, especially as they get older. Sure, the friend who has been by your side through trials and tribulations deserves your loyalty, too, but no one deserves loyalty more than blood family.

I consider such a view of family loyalty to be immoral. It asks a person to be, as the philosopher Ayn Rand puts it throughout her work, a sacrificial animal.

Family is a matter of choice, and loyalty is tied to that choice.

We’re told that children should remain loyal to their parents. Christian theology is especially fond of hammering this into children, as it demands that a child honor his father and mother for no other reason than they are his father and mother. The reverse is true, though. Parents, honor your children, simply because they’re your children. Parents chose to bring the child into the world; the child didn’t choose it. Parents owe loyalty to their children for that reason alone.

Children, however, owe their parents nothing, unless their parents have earned it. “Earning it” doesn’t mean changing diapers or providing food, shelter, and a basic education. These make up the foundation upon which the parent must then build a history of earning their child’s loyalty and respect. The father who crushes his son’s spirits or the mother who clings too tightly to her daughter has not earned these things, despite the number of diapers changed or hours of sleep lost.

Still, parents’ loyalty to their children does not have to be absolute. I’ll discuss this in a future post.

With Christmas behind us, I’m glad to have spent time with my parents, despite the cracks in our relationships. Nevertheless, the cracks remain, and it is no wonder why my best friend feels more like family to me than some of my closest blood relatives do.

There is no easy summation to this post. It barely scratches the surface. How do we earn loyalty, for example? Different people will have different answers to this question. A person will say they have earned loyalty, and their family members will scoff. It’s a lot to consider, but whatever the specifics, the proper foundation is simple.

Family is a matter of choice, not blood.

Family earns loyalty; it does not demand sacrifice.

What do you think?


"In a quiet café, Johnny tells his religiously-oppressive wife, Jessica, that he wants a divorce—and he's taking their daughter, Lily, with him."

For more thoughts on family bonds, check out my short story “Coffee in the Afternoon,” first published in Fabula Argentea in 2014. Read it now for free or get it for Kindle.

 

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5 thoughts on “Blood at Christmas

  1. I think Ayn Rand was an atheist. In fact, I know she was. And all her views should be considered with that in mind.
    He views are biased in an anti-establishment kind of thinking. That can be good, or it can be bad. She wanted to put a nail in the coffin of socialism and communism and I think she failed because she tried to hijack western morals by over emphasis on personal property and personal wealth, even to the point that she said charity was wrong. She was a cold one.

    • Hi there. Ayn Rand was indeed an atheist (and in my opinion, correctly so). You suggest that all her views should be considered with that in mind. Forgive me, because I’m not entirely certain what you mean, but if you mean to suggest that her atheism also means she’s “cold” (as you say later), then I think that you’re suggesting a stereotype that is false–namely, that atheists are cold or cruel people because, as my post suggests, they’re willing to cut out family members from their lives who do not act according to their standards of virtue. First, the stereotype is not always accurate, since Christians routinely cut people out of their lives for the same reason (I have been the “victim” of this myself). Second, such conduct does not necessarily mean someone is being “cold.” Instead, it shows integrity and a deep commitment to one’s values. Whether those values are correct or not is another issue.

      As a point of clarification, here is Ayn Rand’s view on charity: “My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.” (More info at http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/charity.html) I agree with these views on charity.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I enjoyed reading and replying to your comment!

      • But charity is a moral virtue.
        I didn’t generalize atheists as cold in general, just Ayn Rand in particular. It was likely because the Bolsheviks took her father’s pharmacy, that she took such a militant view of charity. Cold.

      • Charity is not a moral virtue in terms of sacrifice, and Ayn Rand is not cold. She is only pegged as such by her enemies. But neither of us will convince the other of our convictions because you’re a Christian and I’m an Objectivist. And, of course, that’s okay.

  2. Hi Christopher, I came across your blog via a comment you left on a site (which I found in a random google search). I’m taking a moment to say I agree with much of what you’ve said here about family. I’m thankful to have a pretty good relationship with my parents and siblings (as of now!), but I hardly speak to any of my extended family. Things have happened that I wasn’t even a part of directly, but just seeing how people react and treat each other has made me stay away completely. I don’t need that negativity in my life. As you said, I feel like my friends are more family than some of my blood relatives. Definitely. Anyway, just thought I’d actually comment on the subject matter instead of attacking Ayn Rand (lol). I don’t know much about her politics or writing so I really have no firm opinion on her. 😉

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