Successful leaders must manage up (superiors), down (subordinates) and sideways (peers). Each group requires something different from you. Understanding family relationships helps you improve your relationships at work. This blog series explores the impact our relationship with our father has on how we build our business and life.

Commentary on Part Five – What Does ‘Being a Family’ Mean to You?

“We are family here at XYZ Corporation. We treat each other like family. We treat our customers like family, too.”

In him to whom love dwells, the whole world is but one family. -Buddha

We hear words like these frequently in the world of business. Tom Peters and Bob Waterman ushered in the “love they customer” movement in the 1980s with their mega-hit book, In Search of Excellence. Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher taught us all to “love thy employee” in the 1990s. The 2000s saw a rise in the importance of creating a family culture with workplace ‘family’ benefits for employees, followed closely by integrating customers’ ideas into as many processes as possible, such as product design.

So what does “being a family” mean in 2014? What lessons can we learn from home that impact how we act at work?

Several years ago tween Kristen Sibilia led a session for children of Social Venture Network members at our East Coast conference. She posed to the group a question she and older sister Kendra received from youngest sister, Kayla. Kayla asked, Why should I worry about you two and Mommy and Daddy? I just care about myself right now. That’s enough for me.”

I never forgot Kristen’s response: “You should care about your sisters and parents because when you care about your family, you have four people who care about you. You have four people worrying about you, finding ways to help you. Why have only one person [you] helping you through life when you can have four?”

We are inevitably our brother’s keeper as we are our brother’s brother. What affects one directly affects us all indirectly.
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kristen’s sentiment is expressed in two other stories I’d like to share. Each has a different perspective on family and what it means to “take care of others.” When I say that to reach your dreams you need to help others reach their dreams, what exactly does it mean to ‘help’?

The first story is told by Talmudic Rabbis. It attempts to explain why the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was built where it once stood:

Once there were two brothers who loved one another very much. The younger brother had a wife and four children. The older brother never married and lived alone. The brothers were poor farmers who worked hard and eked out a living on the field that their father had bequeathed equally to them. Each year at harvest time they divided the produce. Each took his share and stacked it outside his house.

To reach your dreams you need to help others reach their dreams: what exactly does it mean to help?  Tweet This Quote

One night, the older brother awoke and was troubled. He thought, “How unfair of me to take half of the harvest. My brother has a wife and children to feed. I should give my brother a larger share of the harvest.” So, in the middle of the night, the older brother secretly carried part of his share of the harvest to his brother’s house. He placed it on top of what his brother had already stacked there.

The younger brother also awoke from his sleep troubled. He thought, “All these years, I have been equally dividing the harvest work with my brother. But I have been unfair. I have a wife and children to give me comfort, but he is alone. When I am old, my children will help take care of me. But he will be alone, with no one to support him.”

So, in the middle of the night, the younger brother secretly carried part of his share of the harvest and deposited it outside of his brother’s house with his brother’s share of the harvest.

Neither of the brothers knew what the other was doing, so each was amazed that despite his efforts to give part of his own share of the harvest to the other, his own share never seemed to be depleted. Each man continued to bring part of his share of the harvest to his brother during the night, constantly increasing the amount, and always being surprised that his own share never seemed to be diminished.

Finally, one night, the two brothers met. Each quickly understood what the other was doing. They embraced, kissed, and wept in love and joy. When God saw this, he decided to have the Holy Temple built on the exact spot where the brothers met that night.

The love we give away is the only love we keep.
– Elbert Hubbard
 Tweet This Quote

Following a story akin to the famed O’Henry’s Gift of the Magi, I first encountered the second story (edited) in the 1690 book, The Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln. I believe it is the only Jewish book from the Middle Ages written by a woman. It offers another perspective on relationships within a family and at work:

A father bird set out to cross a windy sea with his three fledglings. The sea was so wide and the wind so strong, the father bird was forced to carry his young, one by one, in his strong claws. When he was halfway across with the first fledgling the wind turned to a gale. He said, “My child, look how I am struggling and risking my life on your behalf. When you are grown up, will you do as much for me and provide for my old age?”

Relationships we have with others begin with the relationship we have with ourselves.  Tweet This Quote

The fledgling replied, “Bring me to safety, and when you are old I shall do everything you ask of me.” In response, the father bird dropped his child into the sea where it drowned. “So shall it be done to such a liar as you,” he proclaimed.

Then the father bird returned to shore, set forth with his second fledgling. When asked the same question, receiving the same answer, he drowned the second child with the cry, “You, too, are a liar!”

Finally he set out with the third fledgling. When asked the same question, the last fledgling replied, “My dear father, it is true you are struggling mightily and risking your life on my behalf, and I shall be wrong not to repay you when you are old. But I cannot bind myself. This though I can promise: when I am grown up and have children of my own, I shall do as much for them as you have done for me.” The father bird carried him to safety.

When I think of my family, having watched my much younger siblings and many of the cousins since birth, I feel that the relationships we have with others begin with the relationship we have with ourselves. Given what you know about yourself, I ask:

What are you doing for other members of your family?
What are you doing for your colleagues at work?

We are all angels with one wing,
able to fly only when we embrace each other.
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Check out Mark’s series here:

About the author

Mark Albion

Mark Albion

Mark Albion left his business school professorship to answer his life question: "How can I be a Marxist and still own my own Jacuzzi?" He is now a serial entrepreneur, faculty founder of Net Impact, and author of a series of books exploring meaningful careers, impact entrepreneurship, and success.

  • Brittney Glende

    Thank you Mark for posting this article, I loved the quote where you stated “To reach your dreams you need to help others reach their dreams: what exactly does it mean to help? Well for me I work with Autistic Children and I provide in home therapy to them and help them achieve their goals everyday. My dream is to give back and to help others and for me that is working with these children and helping them. You talked a little bit about the relationships we have with others starts within ourselves. I agree with this 100% it all starts with you as a person and how you feel about yourself. This will allow you to spread your wings and start creating relationships after you have found yourself as a person. 🙂 Great Article Mark!!

  • Thank you, Brittney. Blessings on your work. Has your family support help you find meaningful work? I would think it certainly has made you feel good about yourself. Finding yourself as a person is a lifetime process, so staying connecting with that journey in what you do over time can be tricky, at times, but always fulfilling. May you stay the course 🙂

  • When you think ‘family’, what does that word, that concept, mean to you? Whom do you include in your family and what role(s) do you play? What could you do better?

  • Brandon

    Thanks for the article!!! i love the quote “to reach your dreams you need to help other reach theirs” so true because you need to supportive of each as a family when you are in a work place. It helps improve the relationships with your co-workers by making them better that is what a family does. Role a family does is pick you up when you may be down at times.

  • Marian326

    Thank you for this article. Family to me includes many people that are not related to me by blood. My church family, and my friends that are more like family than my own family. Family to me includes people that support and care for you through the good, the bad, and the ugly times of your life. Unfortunately, I am able to rely on my friends and church family more than I can my “real” family.
    Because of the strain within my family, I purpose to do as much for my children and my parents as I can. I have recently forged a much better relationship with my father, take care of my mother, and I am the communicator with my siblings. Sometimes being the go to person can be a burden, but I know that this is my strong suit.
    Yesterday I found out that one of my brothers had a heart attack, had surgery, and was not doing well. My selfish side could only think about telling my mother if he died. Praise God, he is stable, and it looks like he will make a full recovery. But, I have been mulling over what needs to happen in our family from this moment forward, and do I need to be the one to facilitate the mending of fences?
    Family is complicated, as are most relationships!

  • Daniel John

    I am a triplet and I have always been very close with my entire family. We follow some of the same examples you have discussed in the article from loving others more than ourselves to accomplishing our goals together (dreams). I agree with you when you say that relationships start with ourselves but in my family we put each other’s before ourselves. When I think of family I think of us as one, almost as if we were all the same person. I treat all my family members with unconditional love and respect. Without my family I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. I often consider my close close part of my family and treat them accordingly, is there a specific category for friends or can they be considered family?

  • Daniel John

    Marian326, I agree that sometimes being the go to person can be a burden. I come from a big family and I am considered the “responsible child”. I am sorry to hear about the tragic events that have happened. I am not great with advice but it seems like communication helps. Having someone to talk to May have to looking at things differently. Stay strong and keep praying, I hope all gets better for you.

  • lex_alwaysMIA

    Family is one of the most important factors in my life. I have relatives I rarely see, I have ones who are never around, even ones that call only on the holidays but nonetheless they are apart of my family. I have family that I do not share the same bloodline with but I consider them family. What you call family and I call family may be different but one thing remains the same, we love them. Family is like marriage, through sickness and health, the good times and bad, through richer and poorer for as long as we all shall live. I see nothing wrong with that and that is why I am in it for the long run. Thank you to my amazing family for being the crazy, loving, individuals you are! Great article!!

  • Palecekb

    Mark, this was touching. It is a new outlook that I feel many of us forget about or loose sight of. I know I have in the past. When I needed help no one would follow through with what they had said they would do. I am a person of my words so it was upsetting to see people fall through in times of need. I began to stop asking for help and doing everything on my own, not needing anyones help, or asking for it. After a stress full summer I believe it was, I was going back to school and was stressing about moving in and my father and step mother questioned why I was so worried and suggested I relaxed, I snapped. I exploded with anger in the fact that they were never willing to help me with things I could not accomplish myself. They began to help after that but still until this day, I feel I do not ask for help and try to be independent and do everything myself, because so many people have fallen through on their promises. It is hard for me to try to see in the view of the examples you gave.

  • Kyle Schiedemeyer

    I agree, great article! Family over everything, I know it sounds cliche but its the truth. Blood is thicker than water!

  • Kyle Schiedemeyer

    Im not a triplet but I have 2 other siblings, both younger, and know the struggle. Sometimes it is hard to relate to them and find things to bond over. I know one day we will all be great friends. Great article.

  • Logan Dohmeier

    To me family means everything. They will be the ones there when nobody else is left remaining to support you.. There may be cases where this is not true and it is unfortunate, but there is always someone in your life that you can call family who will always have your back. Those who are fortunate enough to have all of their family members healthy and alive should make sure they cherish the time they do have with them. This is a great article that really makes everyone step back and try to understand exactly what family is to them and it always makes it easy when you lead with a great example. Thanks Mark.

  • clemonsel02

    The people that mean the most in my life is my family. They are the ones that will be there no matter what life throws at you. This is not true for everyone but I truly believe that it is for me. I feel that family is something you need to cherish and you need to be greatful for what you have while they are still here. This article made me realize all the things I should have said before it was to late. Do you think more people need to see this?

  • Janna Bartels

    Thank you for your post! Family is very important and I include my dad, mom, sisters, their husbands, my husband, and his family. My roles have continued to change and develop from the youngest daughter/sister, to friend, to girlfriend and wife. Life constantly brings change and thus our family and roles in relationships will continually change as well. In today’s society, “family” is changing; with divorce, marriage separation, and lack of marriage as the culprits. People today do not value family as much as we once did.

  • Tuan Tran (Toby)

    Thank you for the post! Family is considered the most important thing that I treasure in my life. I’m from Asia country and that really makes it more meaningful for people like us. The people that mean that most to me are my mom, dad, sister, and my partner. They are people that I could never imagine how I can live without them, their supports and love. i sometimes still think that daily communication with my family members seems to not really the best I tend to think that family is already close so I do not have to be formal. But then when I think back, I realize that why do we even treat or behave with people who are not our family members even better then them. This is very true when it comes to giving and receiving love especially in a family. Thanks mark once again. I really love your post about family and the previous one about love . I really love your post and looking forward to read more about your posts!

  • Siden

    Thank you for the article. It is exactly true that family is
    very important. I always try hard to accomplish things to make my family happy.
    When my family is happy, I am happy too. Only family who is always there for
    you no matter you fail or success in your life. It is not good that some people
    do not care about family because they focus too much on earning money. To me,
    family is the priority to care about.

  • gallok

    This is such a great article! I have been leaving for six years in a different country where my family lives. I used to think that family were only people affiliated by consanguinity; now I know that is much more than that. Family is the people which you care and they care about you. Especially when you live away from your ‘family’, you create new connections with friends,co-workers, and classmates.

  • So is your point that living away from your family is good in the sense that you still have your family relationships and the distance makes it easier to explore other fulfilling relationships, too?

  • Siden, what do you do when what makes your family happy is not something you would do otherwise, or when what makes you happy, doesn’t make your family happy? My reading of your comment is you would decide to do whatever makes your family happy first. If so, is that a lifetime commitment? What happens when you have your own family? Do they take priority over your parents and family?

  • Thank you, Toby. If daily communication is not best, what is the best amount, you feel, to communicate. And I’m not sure I understood: do you feel there’s a tendency to treat non-family members at times nicer than your own family members, which you feel is something we have to guard against?

  • Why, Janna, don’t we value family as much as we once did? Should we? And if we should, what can one do to change their priorities?

  • I do think more people need to see this, so please send these blogs around! That is why I’m writing this book. Over the past 30 years of working with thousands of people, many MBAs, writing 7 books and over 200 articles, I’ve found that the family influences on work success and life happiness are profound. I’m trying to give us a space to begin exploring these relationships, particular our ‘father’ relationship, so that we can improve the relationships, empathize with others, and better ourselves and work. What do you think?

  • Thank you, Logan. I often see young people not spending much time with grandparents, not asking them about what life was like when they were young, about their experiences. I was just with a friend’s mother, whom I’ve known off and on for over 30 years. I just found out today she is a holocaust survivor. We talked, she shared. What a rich insight into humanity I never would have received if I hadn’t spent time with this 90 year old. So I agree, don’t wait until they’re gone to appreciate what you have.

  • Just as we try to train ourselves to give, we have to learn to receive — allowing others to feel needed, allowing them to have the gift, the happiness, that comes from giving. This has been an issue within much of my family. I know one of the issues between my Dad and me was that he didn’t feel I needed him. I take great pride in being independent — even my wife of 35 years feels it is very hard to ‘nurture’ me, that my demeanor does not make me approachable. So a lot of time we are not getting help because our ‘vibe’ is that we are in control and can do it ourselves. Some of the most successful leaders lead with ‘doubt’–recognizing that if they ‘know everything’, there is no room, no place, for anyone else. By not knowing, it allows others a chance to give and contribute. Are these comments in some way relevant to you?

  • A Jewish friend used to tell me that family are the people that hide you during the Holocaust. They are there whether you win or lose, Lex, whether you are a success or today wasn’t your day. They listen to the same story you’ve told five times, they give you their time. But to me, just because someone through blood is ‘family’, and I never forget that, it does not mean I have the same affection for some of them as I do my close friends, two of whom have been friends for 50 years!

  • As I said in the post, the way I would define family, similar to as you do, they can absolutely be friends. I have four close friends (3 men, 1 woman) whom I’ve known for 45-50 years. We’ve lived together when someone was out of a job, we’ve helped each other out at tough times. When one of them had his brother die when we were only 31 (his brother 29), I got the news at 10am, told people at work I would be gone the next few days, was on a plane and at his side by 5pm. And he’d do the same for me. That’s family, wouldn’t you say?

  • As we go through life, we all grow in different ways. We sometimes focus on how we are different during these periods, rather than looking for some of those things we still share. Look for those little things you like together, and the rest will come over time, Kyle.

  • Intimacy is hard. It’s easy to have ‘friends’. It’s a lot of work to be a real friend, to really be a family. It takes time and effort, pain and patience, don’t you think? More importantly, Marian, prayers for your brother.

  • I too have been the ‘responsible child’ in my family. Looks like Marian, Daniel and I have a lot in common! On the other hand, think of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Every time I get tired of being the ‘go-to’ person, I realize that I actually have always felt most comfortable in that role (lots of control), and that as Jimmy Stewart in that movie, I am making a little difference in the lives of those I touch. That really helps me get through those tough days and weeks.

  • And that ‘pick me up’ is the role good business partners play for each other. Usually when my business partner is getting tired, I find a little strength. And when I’m ready to give up, she has some new program to try which she finds exciting. As I also like to say like the ‘reach your dreams’ quote: each of us has a spark of divinity inside us, and it is our greatest aspiration to set off that spark in one another.

  • Tuan Tran (Toby)

    Mark, i meant that why do we treat people who are non-family member nice all the time like colleague, friends.. While when we go home and we got upset with work and school.. We just throw our angry on our family members which i do it all the time. That i really need to work on.

  • Got it! Me too. I will get off the phone with a mere client who has been a real pain, and then I’ll go downstairs and yell at my wife over something small. She didn’t do anything. Of course, we feel more comfortable with our loved ones, that no matter how we treat them, they can take it and won’t leave — or no longer hire us like that client. But you are sooooo right. I too have been working on that one for years. Now maybe my youngest daughter could take the hint and treat her parents better!:)

  • Long Bach

    Your article is very interesting. In the past, I always believe in a family everybody has others’ backs. But I always take advantage on that and receive support from others and think that I need not pay back the favor because we are family. However, when one of my dear family members pass away, I regret that I did not have his/her back when he/she needs the most. Through those painful memory that helps shape my understanding of family is a give and take relationship that is not required but implied in a way.

  • Fc Ngoc Tran

    Its really a meaningful artile and I like the way you combine two different stories in order to express your messages to the audiences. As an international student living far away from my family, I realize and appreciate more what our family’s members have done to each other. Sometimes we hurt our family but they still forgive and love us no matter what. Your second story reminds me of my father so much. A few years ago, he said that he wouldn’t expect me to take care of him when he gets old and all he wishes is that I could take care of myself and my future family. I thought that he might not think I would be successful so thats why he didn’t put a lot of hope on me. However, after reading the second story, I think I understand more about what family means to me. Family is an uncondition love. We give love without expecting anything in return. I owe my parents an appology which I cant express by words.

  • Thank you for sharing. You certainly don’t owe your folks an apology. It’s all about maturing. And you understand it now. As scriptures say, when you do for another, you do for me. When you take care of your child, my grandchild, you do for me, your parent, too, don’t you think?

  • What does it mean, Long, to have each other’s back? Two stories of family relationships here, each different, which model are you looking at, the first?

  • Jessica Walker

    When I think “family” I think of the people who have been for me all of my life, loved me unconditionally, people I feel most comfortable around and people I would do anything for. Yes, obviously I think about my immediate family (mom, dad, brother, sister) but there are also others that I place into this category of family. I have two best friends, one of which I met at the age of 3, and the other in kindergarten. Maintaining these relationships in elementary school, middle school and high school was a breeze, but there is always that concern for when you go away to college. However, college did not effect our relationship whatsoever. Sure, I don’t text them as much as I used to, or I don’t call them probably as much as I should… but once we’re all back home, it’s like we had spent no time apart, we pick up right where we left off. I place these two friends in my family because they have such a large, unforgettable place in my heart and my life. Something I could do better is to make sure to call them more often just to see how they are doing, we get so caught up in our own lives I become a little selfish.

  • Ratkowski

    This post really reminds me the importance of family. When I think about my family, I think about my brothers and sisters. I would do anything for them. I love them all equally and wouldn’t be who I am today without either of their influences. It’s true. When you have a family, you have more than just yourself to look out for. But you also have other people looking out for you. In business, it is desirable to have a workplace that resembles the characteristics of a family for that very reason. Support. People thrive when they feel loved and supported. Who wouldn’t want that feeling in the work place? Businesses who’s company culture serves as a family would be more productive in general than working for a business who does not seem like family.

  • TSpeals

    As an only child from a family with few extended relatives, I’ve always tried my best to incorporate others into my “family”. I learned early on that your family isn’t always related to you by blood, but rather the people you are willing to really go out of your way for. In my experience, teams and groups that embrace this mindset are always more successful because they are willing to go the extra mile for each other.

    Interesting article! Thank you for exploring this subject a little deeper.

  • robins30

    In my opinion, family isnt just your blood relatives. It is people you are willing to help even if it is an inconvenience. If a company really can get their employees to view themselves as part of a family, than that could only be a good thing for the company.

  • Krystel Listyo

    First of all, thank you for such a great article! I really like how you incorporate stories to the article. It makes a lot more sense to relate it to our own experience. I feel like we’re so caught up in bigger things that we tend to forget the simple ones. When I think about the word ‘family’, I immediately think of a group of 2 or more people who love and respect each other. They don’t necessarily have to be heterogeneous couples nor have to have children in order to be a complete family. Family can be anyone in any group within our society. You can call your work friends or best friends your family. There’s no limitation in calling people your family when you can feel comfortable and be the most you when they’re around. I’m fortunate for being able to call my parents and younger brother my real family, because they are always there for me through thick and thin. They are the reason why I’m convinced that people you called ‘your family’ will always be there for you. I haven’t had any work-related experience, but I’m excited to find out if my work friends can really be called ‘family’. Again, thank you for bringing this topic up!

  • Jcoppa

    I loved those stories, this is a great read! I am the baby of the family, so it seems for my whole life my parents and older brother have been taking care of me and making sure I’m following the right path. I used to think it was bothersome, them always telling me what to do… but now I see my family was just trying to make sure I knew how to handle situations and that I would be successful.

    I relate to the bird story the most. My brother was a huge influence in my life. But there is nothing I can do for him. I have a younger cousin who needs direction, so I am her biggest fan and now that shes about to be in high school, I know she will be annoyed with me as well. But one day, she’ll understand I only bugged her because I want her to succeed.

  • Jcoppa

    Part of me disagrees with the idea of family at work… Yes, you can have a work family, but people at work cannot be your family. What I’m trying to say, is that work has a lot of competitive aspects, and blood family does as well. But at work, people are sometimes willing to step on others to get ahead. In family, that should never happen. Families boost people up, not step over them to get ahead. Family is always there for you, after years of not talking, after huge fights, after success and loss… Work can fire you for a mistake, then usually you have no reason to talk to those former co-workers anymore. Family always has a connection, nothing can break up a strong family.

  • I am 63 and have one male friend who I roomed with from 13-22, prep school and college, one I met at prep school at 14 years old, one from freshman year in college, and one female friend from freshman year in college. We live in Boston (me), D.C., South Carolina, Atlanta and Miami. I get together with them in different combinations at least once every year. We make it a priority. Four of us just went last week to another roommates’ daughters wedding in Charlottesville, VA – for the wedding but also to spend two days together with our wives as well. So we make an effort – I more than the rest, frankly, but once I put something out there, they all respond well. We take care of each other, some of us have lived together when we needed to, etc. You are right, Jessica. They are “family.” We are always there for each other no matter what.

  • My mom’s business (manufacturer of high end textiles for yachts, planes, and home furnishings) has three “execs,” all have been with her for over 35 years. They are family. In other situations, however, particularly in today’s business world, I don’t know how well family works — when you can be let go tomorrow, when better offers take people away every 18 months. That said, I’m looking for what qualities from family relationships, which aspects, do you bring to work, and which help you, and which may not be as helpful? Love to learn more what you think about that 🙂

  • Thank you. Do you think you need to be together for a certain amount of time for “teams” to become family and do better? Or is time not relevant?

  • How is having employees view themselves a ‘good thing’ and how might it not be so good?

  • You are welcomed, Krystel. When you do start working, do you think you’ll be looking for a ‘family’ culture, and if so, what will that mean to you at work, given what you just said so clearly in the above paragraph about your parents and younger brother. Do those relationships help you be a better employee?

  • Passing on the tradition 🙂 Will that kind of behavior be something you will bring to work? And if so, how? ‘Family’ cultures, behaviors may be a plus, but can also be a minus at certain workplaces, don’t you think?

  • Very true and similar to a comment I made below. On the other hand — just to play devil’s advocate — the #1 reason millennials are happy at work is that they like their boss and people they work with. They don’t have to be family, but it is a place they enjoy. What aspects of family do you think may work in certain workplaces? Which clearly don’t work?

  • Palecekb

    oh absolutely, everything matches almost perfectly. I know that my boyfriend feels he is not needed in the times where I just take care of the manly things he should be doing like killing spiders or fixing something on my car. I just find it more of a hassle to ask for help then to just take care of it myself.

  • I hear you. It happens when you are raising children — easier for me to take out the trash than at times, wait for my teenagers to do it (they are all mid-20s + now) — and at work – easier right now to get this career fair going than on my 47th email with the person in LA I brought on to do it. But if you do that, then you can’t complain that you ‘do everything, no one helps out here’ or that you are exhausted and overtired because you have to do everything at work. Another time, I could get a little ‘academic’ here; it is the basis of the law of comparative advantage–a critical set of theorems about how international trade works. Suffice it to say now, it says that even if you can do everything better than someone else, over time it is important that you focus on your high-value added things and let the other do the rest. For example, I could always type faster (and better) than all of my ‘secretaries’, except for one (Jill was unbelievable). But it made sense for Professor Mark to do his research and have her type. Does this make any sense? (Critical complex mathematical theory explained in two sentences.) Oh, well, back to writing 🙂

  • Palecekb

    yes, I find myself doing all the work in group projects(which I Hate) because I feel others will not do a good enough job when I really need the A. But I can see where you give the example of the professor doing his actual job of teaching and researching rather then the small task of writing it down.

  • Calvin Theyer

    Whenever I hear the world family, all I imagine is the entity: a mother and a father, with their children. I totally overlooked the significance of that word, until I read the story in this article. I realized that family is really all about love, sharing, and giving. It is not a noun, but a verb. The story just impeccably illustrate how the action of putting their brother before themselves is what defines a family; it is not the blood relations.

    This makes me reevaluate who I consider my family. My family is anyone I love so dearly, that I would consider their needs to be equally as important as mine. The role that I play as a family member is of course to be courteous and supportive. As in any relationship, it takes effort to maintain, which means having to compromise on both ends. What I, and anyone could do better is to become more sensitive and understanding of another’s need and less for our own. We all are so consumed with our challenges, that we need a kindness from others to remind us that there are things that are more important – things like family.

  • ysursan

    Mark, thank you for your article! The meaning of family has been a very intriguing topic to me the last few years, as I have witnessed four painful divorces within my immediate family. I often ask myself the same question you ask; what does the concept of “family” really mean, and what role does family play? Through being surrounded by all of these distressing experiences, I have also had to reflect on what I can do better as a family member myself. I really appreciated the biblical story you shared in the beginning of your article, as it reflects how amazing the concept family can be when you think about your loved ones’ needs before your own. In doing this, as you reminded us, it is important to understand the relationship that you have with ourselves. I believe that family are those who embody the values you communicate with your readers. Family does not have to be blood. Family are those who embrace and love you whole-heartedly while also fully understanding the relationship that they have with themselves. Your article brought me back to all of the valuable lessons I have learned throughout my life- thank you!

  • You can’t do it all, and no one else does things exactly like you do, so you need to take the time to train and then make sure the big stuff in their job is getting done, and let the little stuff go.

  • Josh Pritchard

    Janna I too consider my family as my mom, dad, brothers, sister, all my relatives, cousins, etc. I think today there are still plenty of people that value family and then there are some who don’t. So I don’t think that people are valuing family less, they just aren’t appreciating them as much.

  • Tim Rutkowski

    Great post Mark. I am curious to know if this is the last of your post on Family? I haven’t read all of the series but I like the topics that you are touching on. The only that i didn’t understand is the relationship with yourself.

  • Yes, Tim. This is a serialization of my next book, with a commentary section for each book section, so if you haven’t read along, you may be a little lost. The entire book is on my relationship with my Dad, but I will be using it to branch off into other business topics beyond workplace as family, so to speak. For example, the next entry, the commentary will be looking at whether you seek questions or answers as a leader, and what is the difference. So different sections of the book will raise different topics: forgiveness, kindness, risk-taking, etc. The book’s main message however does involve family, specifically intergenerational empathy.

  • You are welcome. Just trying to get you to think a little deeper, act a little sooner, with empathy, kindness and compassion. And yes, I do believe it starts with how you feel about yourself. I will be giving two commencement speeches in a couple of weeks, and for one of them, I will be asking the graduates to be a little kinder to themselves. Find joy in life, and give joy. So yes, divorces are miserable, but many happen because we take family, spouses in particular, for granted, and don’t put in the daily/weekly/monthly effort to keep our relationships meaningful and growing.

  • Calvin – I LOVE your insight: Family “is not a noun, but a verb.” Could you explain more than above. What does it mean, say, as an infinitive: “to family.” Again, thank you for your wisdom!

  • Jcoppa

    Well I agree that people should be happy and like the people they work with, absolutely. And I have a wonderful work-rapport at my current job, but they could never compare to the people who raised me and the people who know my best and worst qualities. Blood family is the strongest bond I will ever have, and I cannot imagine anyone coming close to that relationship. Until I make my own family…

  • BartuchGR11

    Thank you for posting this blog. I found the blog interesting because I do often think that when we think of family its about having a mom, dad and siblings. I agree that there is more to the word family. Family is also about showing love and supporting each other no matter what. Do you think that a lot of family think of family as a noun or a verb?

  • Keeli Gilbert

    I couldn’t agree with you more. We do get so caught up in our own lives that we do forget what family really means. I do not know the definition and I feel not many of us ACTUALLY know, but as well as you, I feel that it is the love and the memories that we share and that no matter what happens you will always be able to have that “love” for one another.

  • Keeli Gilbert

    Mark, I always love you reading your articles and look for them every time I log on.
    I must agree with you!!
    We do get so caught up in our own lives that we become selfish and we forget to do the things that may be necessary within a family.
    When I first left high school, I couldn’t wait to get the heck out of my house. Just get away go anywhere, but stay with my family. In March of my senior year, my step grandfather passed away. I wasn’t really close with him, but it still hurt. By this time school was just about over and I was getting ready to move to UW-Platteville for some space and to start my first year of college. August right before move in day, my grandmother passed away. She was my best friend. At this point I was still caught up in myself to realize that I had lost my closest family member. And it wasn’t until after spending 3 weeks in Platteville WITHOUT my family that I realized, I wanted to go back home.
    I am not back in my home town, not that Platteville was bad at all, but I mean there’s nothing like being home.
    In high school, my mom and I did not get along at all!! It wasn’t until I left for college that I realized that I really did miss my mom and that I took for granted all the times we had together to do my own dumb high school shenanigans.
    Family is so much more important to me right now that I realized nothing is better then to see your parents and to realize that they have unconditional love and I feel like that is my real “definition” of family. Where you could do something so stupid and those people still love you no matter what. That nothing could change their mind about how they feel about you. We recently have been going through some tough times within my family and some stupid decisions that someone has done, but we still see them the same and we don’t let anything that that person has done effect that way that we think of them or our love for them. We may find this in a significant other or even a long lost friend. Thanks for the article and helping me really realize what my definition of “family” is.

  • Alexandra Helena Marie Nicolof

    This is one of the most moving articles I have ever read on Unreasonable. It may be the young adult in me, but I would consider a couple of my close friends closer than most of my family. I think that developing relationships with people who are unrelated often creates deeper connections than with blood relatives because we choose to love them instead of feel that we have to. I’ve always felt somewhat entitled to love my family. Not that I’m complaining. 🙂

  • Alexandra Helena Marie Nicolof

    Employees with confidence can lead to wonderful things for a company, and is one of the keys for advancement in all areas of life. Unfortunately, confidence can get out of hand and grow to be an attitude problem.

  • I don’t know. I never thought of it until Calvin’s comment below. I’m going to put it into my next post, I think. The point is to me that is something active, not passive, a process, not a finished product, a blood-line can start it, but without the proper behavior, that’s not family. What do you think? Is it a noun or a verb and what does that mean to you?

  • You are welcome. Yes, absence and distance often make the heart grow fonder. You also have shared memory with these people. They knew you when you were ‘just a sprout’ and you share so much of the past, the title of my next blog (memory). I’m glad you are developing a more mature definition of family that is meaningful and actionable for you.

  • Yes, Alexandra. With family, we don’t think much about it. With friends we do. The trick with friends is do you work to stay close as you raise kids in different parts of the country/world? Do you see each other pretty regularly, and start right where you left off? It can be a real challenge in your 30s and 40s. I have four close friends (two of whom I just saw at a wedding in VA – we three live in Boston, D.C. and Atlanta) who I’ve known for 45-50 years. We email, call, see each other, and go to weddings like this as ways we keep close. And we take care of each other when needed, too. I hope you have that with your friends as you become a full-grown 🙂 adult.

  • What do you mean by “confidence can get out of hand?” Does being “family” lead to bad attitude, a sense of entitlement, Alexandra? (thanks for the two comments 🙂

  • I hear you. Work friends come and go but family is forever 🙂

  • byrnesbk24

    Family to me means tradition. My family has so many traditions that if we miss one or change one i feel soar about it. I love my family traditions they remind me of my childhood, growing up and especially my grandparents who have passed. My family is so close to one another that I don’t think I could ever move to far away from them, id miss em too much!!!

  • Max Rude

    When i think family i think of the people who have been there for me. I have came from a broken family but over the years i have found new friends that grew into family friends and then family.

  • Slepicka12

    Thank you for sharing your article it was really a great read! When I think about the word family I think people who are there to support you through your decisions and someone who constantly loves you. Families have their ups and down but if they really can work together can get through most anything.

  • Interesting, when you say ‘tradition’, what exactly do you mean?

  • Does your family, though ‘broken’, still support you well, and you them? My folks were divorced when I was three, and when I was growing up, ages 8 -12, I got to see my Dad much more than friends whose parents were together. My Dad would see me every weekend, whereas my friends hardly ever saw their fathers, who were always working (We lived in a wealthy New York City suburb.) So in my case, I feel I got more support, particularly paternally, from a broken home.

  • What makes a family, like your family, work better together? What hinders that togetherness?

  • Slepicka12

    I feel what makes our family better is spending time together and always being there when we need each other most.

  • Thank you. Curious. How much time do you spend together?

  • Slepicka12

    We spend as much time as we can together. Sporting events for my siblings, going out to dinner, family parties, and just enjoying each others company.

  • Max Rude

    Interesting. I can’t say I had the same luck, but i’m glad there is a positive effect for you and I assume others out there also. I do believe I had support it was just harder for my mom and later on in life my step dad to do, because they where constantly working. I never saw my “dad” after I was 4. However i Know i could call my step dad or mom at anytime for help.

  • Marian326

    Thank you Mark & Daniel. This has been an emotional weekend with finishing my classes, conversing with siblings about the brother who had the heart attack, having one brother visit from MT, and Mother’s day…In general I don’t mind being the go to person, but I do mind the emotions that go with it…

  • Marian326

    Thank you Mark for your prayers. Brother Bill is doing great! He had a stent put in and is home. Intimacy is very difficult, does take much effort, pain and patience, but it also takes a large amount of tolerance. I find it so difficult to converse with family that does not agree with me. I am able to agree to disagree, but others get so upset with “republican” or “democrat” in the family. I just want us to be civil to each other and genuinely care for each other. I know that I can’t change anyone and that I am only responsible for my behavior. Again, thank you for your words and thought provoking questions. I bought one of your books and it arrived yesterday. I look forward to reading it soon.

  • Siden

    Thank you for the question. This is a very hard question. My
    family’s perspectives shaped most decisions I have made. I admit that sometimes I had conflict ideas with my family, but they followed my decisions after listening to my reasons. They never force me to do things I don’t like. Instead, they just use reasons to advice me and always support my decisions
    after all. Both my family and I have different reasons but mostly the same interests. It’s hard to do things that can satisfy both family and me but I sometimes have to balance desires of my family and mine. For a lifetime commitment, I know I should use the real me to make decisions (ignore the external ideas). In order to reach the fullest potential of life, I think I should use the real me to make decisions (I know it’s easy say, hard do because
    the environment and culture have influenced me since I was young). You asked me what happens when I have my own family, the priority goes to my parents or my
    own family. My answer is it depends.

  • Alexandra Helena Marie Nicolof

    You’ve brought up a good point. I’ve experienced the distancing of close friends after high school when we went to different colleges. It was a challenge just making the time and having the money to visit then, so I can only imagine the difficulties if I have a “real” job with a family and kids.

  • Got it. But in an ‘average’ month, say, how many times do you get together?

  • Yes, Max. Thanks for sharing. This ‘constantly busy’ stuff has been a challenge for many sons and daughters with their parents, particularly fathers. I must say that when I was in my early teens, and my Dad was working like crazy to try to support a wife and four children, he always made time for me, particularly around sports, which were incredibly important to me, and now I remember, he even made me do four summer book reports before my first year (8th grade) in a top private school, as English was my weakest subject (came from a family of math jocks :).

  • Understand. As life often happens in ‘bunches’ we can get overwhelmed–even if it is all good. We feel guilty, but the truth is, everything, even good things, take energy, and sometimes we just need a break. I remember Ben Cohen (Ben and Jerry’s) telling me one time about how miserable his work life was as each day he was involved in 10 great things he had to participate in. Wouldn’t it be really great, Ben asked, if that could just be 2-3, so I could really enjoy them? (and not be so exhausted). Rest up — good decisions are made with good rest, bad decisions are made by the tired.

  • Thank you, Marian. Yes, we have often set a ‘rule’ of no ‘violent conversation’. We can always disagree, but with respect, and we try to keep these things non-personal. I simply avoid a lot of topics with my family, like politics. “Kill Obama, etc. etc.” I’ll hear. Again, I don’t mind disagreeing with his policies, etc., but many family members will make personal attacks and say stupid, ugly things. So I’ve learned over the years in my relationships not just tolerance, but what to discuss and what to just not listen to. Makes for more peace… at least in my life 🙂

  • Oooh, nice ending with ‘it depends.’ I agree. It depends on what the decision and circumstances are. I also think that as you age, a lot of ‘you’ has integrated so much of them that the tug of two masters eventually becomes just one, especially when the ‘other’ are these people who have loved you all your life. Agree?

  • Or when someone simply moves away. My 26 year old’s best friend just got a job offer about 200 miles from here and will probably take it. They had a whole summer of activities planned together. She’s heartbroken. The question then is, how do you keep that relationship going?

  • Amy Pham

    Thank you again for sharing such a wonderful article! Your articles are always so meaningful. Whenever I think of the word “Family”, I always feel so peaceful and feel like I need to get a ticket to get to my parents and my brother right away because I miss them. Family is where we constantly sharing love and support with each other. Family is where you will receive unstoppable love no matter what mistake you would make. Without family, I don’t think I can be here in the United States doing what I want to do. Sometimes I just wish that I had not made my parents upset when I was younger because of my childishness. Now having all grown up, I always think about my family before I make a decision so that it makes them happy.

  • Thank you for sharing this great article!,

    when people think about family generally, they knew its mom dad and siblings.

    when i think about word “family” is people who always be there for me though thick and thin, to support me whatever i want to do right thing, and stop me for doing a wrong thing.
    my parents and my sister are my “main family”, but i do have others that i can called family. I’m studying abroad to Seattle from Indonesia at first, i didn’t know anyone here i came here by my self and live by my self. But when you already found a good community that you can fit in and comfort with and you can trust them. i could say it as a “family”.

  • Amy, how kind of you to share. Why is it that your family is so close and loving whereas many families have jealousies and aren’t so supportive?

  • ‘Surround yourself with a community of love’ is one of my 12 lifelines in my More Than Money book. Sounds like you are doing that. Coming over along, how did you find and build that community of friends and support?

  • Marian326

    I had this same conversation with my father today. I asked him to please not bring up politics with my brother this weekend…should be an interesting weekend!

  • i don’t know, may be just be yourself , do not trying to be someone else to be accepted in a community and respect each others

  • Good luck. Please tell me how it goes. Sometimes we all need to just let things go, but within a family, with everyone pushing each other’s ‘buttons’, it can be hard to do.

  • Good rule to ‘play by’: be yourself and respect others. Well-said, Karlyn.

  • Junhan Shi

    Thank you for posting this article. I come from China, and I am the only child in my family because we have the “One Child” policy. Since most of us do not have siblings, both child and parents usually treat family as the most important relationship in our life. When I was young, I have been told that I was responsible for my parents, and I must look after them when they are old. They give all their love to me who is the only child in the family, so I always believe that I should return back after I grow up. I am willing do anything for them, and I do believe that they have already done this for me. Moreover, we are very close to our relatives. They bring me to visit my grandparents once a week, and all of our relatives will get together on important festivals. As a result, I think this culture makes me have a strong sense about family, and it also lets me learn how to get along with different relatives. Thus, I totally agree with your idea about “Being a family”.

  • Thank you for sharing. The family closeness sounds wonderful, but how do you feel about the “One Child” policy (personally, not in terms of for the Nation)? It seems ironic, don’t you think, that with family so important, you can not have a sibling.

  • Hanna Boyd

    When I consider the “family” in my life, the world spans well beyond those who are related to me by blood. My family are those around me (physically or not) who influence the person I am today and will become. In fact, I had a beautiful moment to realize this just this past weekend as I reached the milestone of graduating from college. As I looked around my the celebration that followed the actual ceremony, I was absolutely filled with joy and contentment because I felt that everyone I loved – my family – was all around me. Each had played a significant role in bringing me to where I was that day. Financial support and unconditional love from direct relatives (not to mention endless laughter and support even when I have made my biggest “oopses”), the co-workers who have supported me and encouraged me toward my next steps in life, and the friends who have seen me throughout it all! These people are all family to me. Each role they have in my life means the world, and not one of them could, or myself, could have done it better. If we wanted to change things that would change where we are today.

  • Thank you for contributing, Hanna – it seems to be working, eh?

  • Siden

    That’s right. I agree.

  • 2lvinC

    Thank you very much
    for this article. I enjoyed how the article incorporated family
    into the business life. Through Southwest’s example, I can the result of their
    success. I also enjoyed the phrase “Relationships we have with others begin
    with the relationship we have with ourselves.” By reflecting on their own
    business, Southwest was able to create a stronger relationship with their

  • Hien

    I come from a culture that the “family” concept plays such an important role in our life. We are attached to our family closely even when we are matured enough to build one on our own. Talking about “family”, I think about people who share the same moral norms with me, who are close and related to me, biologically and spiritually. It’s kinda disappointed thinking of the value of family is undervalued by the recent generation. In my opinion, individualism are great, but not all dependence are bad. Developing and improving together as a group can benefit a lot more if you do it the right way, especially in a family

  • Yes, by focusing on their people, and making sure they felt good, SW felt it could bring that feeling to customers as well, just as if we do it with ourselves, it is easier to then develop those kind of relationships with others, right?

  • Yes, in the U.S. there is such an “independent” value that we sometimes forget that dependence, or at least the recognition of “interdependence” is good. Why has this generation lost, as you suggest, the sense of the importance of interdependence?

  • Eunice Lam

    This was a great post to read! This is the second article that I’ve read from you, and both of them have been very intriguing. I love what you write about in your series because everyone can relate to them. It definitely makes me think about how I treat my family and the people around me. I don’t see my family enough right now because I am in another state, but for my friends and coworkers, they are my families away from home. We spend all this time together and create a bond, and we take time understanding each other that it’s hard not to feel like a family (or at least really close) after a certain time. I also really like Kristen’s response to her sister; it’s a good reminder that the more people you care for and the more love you spread, it’ll reciprocate and more people would care for you as well.

  • Thank you, Eunice. With your friends, what makes some ‘family’ and others not? Is it mostly how much time to feather so something(s) else?

  • Juhno Mann

    When I think of family, I think of those that I would do anything in my power to help, and who feel the same way about me. This doesn’t apply to just those in my immediate family, but also friends I have developed deep relationships with over time.

  • Does it not apply, Juhno, to certain members of your immediate family, or to all of them, no matter what?

  • jmpatridge

    Not even reading the post I am going to tell you what I think. (only the headline) Family to me is someone that is always by your side related or not. Growing up I have more unrelated cousins then I do related ones. They will stand by my side no matter what, this is family. Sure some people might have the same last name or blood but are they truly “family?” I found this out being my mom was adopted into her family and I always asked her about her “real mom.” She said her real mom was my Nana and that is all that mattered. Family is about who takes you in not who gets rid of you.

  • What is your role in being someone family takes in vs gets rid of you? Is it automatic or do you have some responsibility, too?

  • Matthew Manley-Browne

    Thank you Mark for your post! When I think of Family, I think of a group of people who are always there for you through thick and thin. I feel that the term family is a broad concept instead of just referring to a group of people who are blood related. I am in a fraternity on campus and live with most of the guys in a house. Because we are constantly looking out for one another and offering help when needed, such as relationship advice or homework help, I feel as though the men that I live with are a second family to me. I think that if you were to ask people who they would consider a part of their family, many people would include close friends or neighbors whom they have shared some sort of live experience with. One question I would ask is this: Do you believe that as a society we all have an unconscious draw to help one another out or look out for one another even if the person is not considered family?

  • I would like to say ‘yes’, Matthew, and for some people I think that is true. But unless in need, I believe most people need to be trained and taught to look out for the other — unless it is important for them as well. True altruism is often only sustainable if it is based in self-interest. Like your school chums, I’m still close to 4 friends from high school and college – 50 years of friendship with each on average! But there were hundreds I’ve been close to over the years, but then people get busy, go their own ways, some are better than others at keeping in touch. Family is forever — like it or not — but I believe that is only true with very few friends over time, as we graduate, disperse and get busy in our own lives.

  • hirthjp18

    Coming from divorced parents and having them remarried my view of family might be a little different then others. Family doesn’t have to be blood instead I look at it as people who accept you. I consider my step father and his family more as my family then my actual blood relatives. Its the people who accept and love you unconditionally that make it family. I have goods friend that I consider family because over time you grow to become that. I look at them as brothers, people I would do anything for. These are people who understand me best and care.

  • Understand. As Warren Buffet once said when asked about family, he said he learned what family was from an Auschwitz holocaust survivor, “Family are the people that will hide you.” Love you no matter what.

  • Carly Konkol

    Family is the single most important thing to me. As I have gotten older, I have learned just how much value it has to me. Also, since I am going to be an aunt in a few weeks, I have been closer than ever to my big brothers. Family means; support, unconditional love, laughter and an understanding between one another that can never be matched. I include my family, immediate and extended, as well as my friends. I value all of these people first and foremost. I try to show all of these people how much they mean to me on a daily basis. One thing I could do better is show my appreciation in more ways then just saying it. Sometimes I take others for granted, especially my mom, and I want to improve on that. Thank you for this post!!

  • Thank you, Carly. Just remember, however, that as time goes on, you’ll lose touch with many friends. A few will stay around for life (I have 3 male and one female friend I remain close to after 45-50 years!), but family is really forever.

  • Marian326

    I found the statement, “family are the people that will hide you,” very profound. I too feel that family is not always your blood relatives, but instead are those that will hide you, support you, tell you when you are wrong, and keep your secrets. I have friends that will do that. I do not feel that most of my blood family would do that. I am comforted by the fact that my son “would die for me” and that my best friend would be at my side in a moment, but I also know that they are human. I know that humans will let me down, and in addition, I need to keep my eyes on the author and perfecter of my faith, Jesus Christ.
    As an older adult who has recently reestablished a relationship with my father, I need to reach out and be a better sister to my siblings. It is easy to be upset and to hold onto anger when siblings do not meet our expectations. I need to set the standard and reach out to them.
    Thanks Mark for one more thought provoking article that has inspired me to reflect on my relationships and to make them better.

  • You are welcome, Marian. I stopped writing this series in early June and will pick it up again in December when the site will better accommodate my serialization. In the meantime, look for my blogs on why this serialization matters to social entrepreneurs and this audience.

  • Garrett Nelson

    Thank you for the insightful post Mark! I think “family” represents something more than the literal term ‘Family.’ You can have different types of families, such as being a part of a sports team ‘family’, a work crew ‘family’, classmates that are considered ‘family’, or even just friends that you might consider ‘family’. I think to define someone/something as family you need to: share respect, honesty, trust, love, common interests (with friends), religion (potentially), friendship, understanding, selflessness, and a drive to make that person/thing better, or as good as they can be. Kind of like in the “Fast and Furious” films, the main crew develops together as a family throughout the series as they build each of the above characteristics with one another. Everyone obviously has their own idea and definition of “Family,” but it is important for everyone to know the importance of having a family for support, regardless of where that family comes from. A question for the author, what kinds of “family” do you have personally? Have you developed close relationships with others outside of your immediate family that you would consider to be a “family member?” Thanks again!

  • Yes, Garrett. I have had two male friends for over 50 years and one male and female friend for 45 years. We have taken care of each other, lived with each other, supported one another over the years, and these four people and their ‘broods,’ along with an entire family I remain close to after 53 years, they all are part of my ‘family.’ Lucky guy, eh?

  • ZecCepeidaConner

    Family to me is a synonym for love. It is doing everything in your power to make sure that the person you care for is taken care of to the best of your abilities. No matter what the cost, if you can do it, you will do it.

  • Simple and powerful. Thank you.

  • Alise Brown

    Everything we do in life is a team effort. Nothing can be accomplished alone, and even if it could what would be the point if you didn’t have anyone to celebrate it with at the end. Life is so much sweeter when you work together with the ones you claim as your family and treat each other with that mutual respect. Life is about sharing with the people that mean the most otherwise what would be the point.

  • We are all angels with one wing, able to fly only when we embrace each other, Alise, as you said so well.

  • thompsonjm99

    Interesting article. I consider my family to be the most important part of my life. family is irreplaceable and we need to recognize that and cherish our family members. We must realize there is nothing more important than family. Family is who should be treated the best and given the most respect and attention. We need to not shy away from these things just because we are so familiar and used to being around them. Why do you think we take family for granted?

  • mankobj22

    This is such an important topic with so many important and different answers! First, I want to address what family means to me; it is undoubtedly the most important and strongest support system. This understanding of family shapes how I understand my role in the family. I try to be as supportive to my parents as I can while also trying to demonstrate as best as I can, how much I appreciate their support for my schooling, sports and other recreational activities. Family support is one of the most important elements and plays a huge role in developing that strong family structure.

  • Alyssa Schragen

    Family isn’t always who your blood is, I value the idea of family and the relationships and bonds that grow in between my family. I have 2 kinds of families, the family that I am bonded with through the family tree, and the other is the family that I have welcomed into my life as more than just a friend. A bond that was created between us that will make it ever lasting just as it does with a sibling or parent. I agree with your definition of family and feel that it is important to go through life having that in your life. I have a big heart and plenty of pieces of it to go around. I know that I will never have to go through life alone simply because even though there is only one of me, there are plenty of family that fill in those gaps. Just as your sister said, for everyone of them she loves there are 4 that love her right back. My biggest role in my family is to simply just be there and give as much to them, if not more than what I receive. My siblings now have kids, and although I don’t have any of my own I want my nieces and nephews to grow up with the kind of unity in a family that I did.

  • It is funny how we will spend an hour helping/talking to a stranger, but not to a loved one (too busy)! I think we often have the mindset of not appreciating what we have, but focusing on what we don’t have. I like to say “Want what you have” as a perspective on approaching life. For example, young people will tell me how lucky I am because I have done X or made X amount of money. I say how lucky you are to still have your grandparents. So I think it is simply our focus, and how we look at what is a successful day, often not really prioritizing those who are most important to us — often, not until it is too late.

  • We need family to bring us into the world; we need that support in our last years. We also need them in between. Absolutely. Thanks for all your comments.

  • A friend of mine who survived the holocaust once said, when asked to define ‘family’: “Family are those who will hide you when it was needed.”

  • Alyssa Schragen

    Wow what a powerful message that is behind that. I have visited the holocaust museum 4 different times and each time I get a different perspective of what it was really like and try to channel in on the emotions behind the stories. I find it fascinating even today in my earlier education years when we are taught about slaves and the underground railroad; those people who were “accepted” in the society risked their lives for people who they didn’t know just for the sake that they wanted to do what was right. The sacrifices people make for those that we do not know often come as a great gift than that of someone we expect it from.

  • Well-said. I too am amazed at the ‘gimlet chasadeim’ – the deeds of loving kindness that people will do for near strangers. There is a Talmudi madrash that posits that God created humans because even though we would lie, steal, kill, make war, we would also do these “small deeds with great love” (Mother Teresa’s expression) and for that reason, God created woman and man.

  • Glassborow

    Thank you for this post, the word family to me means connection, love and trust. It’s the most important thing to have in your life, to have people there for you, that love and care for you unconditionally. The people that I would include in my family is my mum, dad and brother. Unfortunately, as with many other families we are not a nuclear family anymore, which was a huge challenge for me to overcome, it made me feel like the word family didn’t mean anything, like it was worthless. But even though my family lives separately, I know it’s important to keep communication a priority and I know I am still part of a ‘family’. I know that as a daughter and sister I can make sure my family knows that I love them and would do anything for them. I feel that sometimes I can be rude and obnoxious to my parents, and I realize I need to improve on that, after all they’ve raised me and been amazing and they don’t deserve any of my bad moods!

  • Ah, we get used to those bad moods! 🙂 One “I love you” does us parents good! Thank you for your many posts.

  • Carly Konkol

    Thank you for this!! Like Mark said, it is simple and powerful. I definitely agree with this definition of family. I also think loyalty and respect are two very important things that I value in my relationships with my family. This is one of my favorite unreasonable posts, so I always enjoy reading everyone’s comments. Thanks again.

  • danac501

    Thank you I enjoyed reading this article. Family has always been my number one priority because you can always count on them well for me that is. I would do anything for my family. My parents decided to raise my sister and I to be close each other and with our cousins and I have loved every minute of it. Since moving away from my family to go to school it has been really tough their are my biggest supporters and my backbone. Since I don’t get to see my mom every day I try to call her twice a week to see how see is doing. I believe you should cherish your family and do all you can for them because you only get one. Sometimes I treat close friends like they are family I would do anything to help them. Do you think only the people that you are related to can be family?

  • As one Holocaust survivor said, “family” were the people who would hide me. Family is a verb, not a noun, and takes energy put in via lots of small doses. I have 4 friends of over 50 years who I consider family. We have gone through a lot together. Love comes in many ways, don’t you think?

  • danac501

    Yes I believe it comes in many ways. I believe you create a family over bonds. I have one friend we play the sport lacrosse together and we have a bond with those people that no one would understand. I feel like some people don’t get it. Do you think some people get offended when you tell them this is your family and its not a brother or sister or mom or dad?

  • I think what is offense – and I can speak to this as a parent – is if you are still close to one of those people in 50 years, you’ll be lucky. Young people don’t realize that as life goes on, you stay close to very few people, if any. Geography, family, marriages. But family is forever, family takes you in when no one else will, when they haven’t seen you for a decade. If a friend lives up to that — only know that over time — ok. But two of the three guys I am still close to, we played football together for 4 years. But are relationship was continued by constant effort on both sides to help each other out and support each other. So takes effort and the test of time.

  • Adam

    Thanks for this great post! To me family is the most important thing in my life and I am sure it always will be. The people that mean the most to me are my mother, father and sister. But I have friends who are not blood related who have gone out of their way to take care of me in bad times. If family is considered a group of individuals who look after you, care for you, and help you when you are down, then my family is pretty big!

  • Alex Prailes

    Family is the one thing that I cherish the most in my life. They are the people that i prioritize over everything else. When I was younger I used to hate spending time with my family and thought it was so dumb, until I grew up and realized how important family actually is to me. The best part about family is that they don’t always have to be blood. I have a couple close friends that I also consider family, along with my immediate family. Surrounding yourself with people who will inspire you and push you to be the best is something that I hope everyone cherishes.

  • Sounds good, Adam. Family is their forever. How do you tell if those ‘individuals’ are there for you say, when you don’t take a limo to work, but the bus?

  • Inspiration, yes, Alex. What about those who love you, when they tell you things you don’t want to hear? What does that mean to you?

  • Alex Prailes

    My family is awesome at telling me things I don’t want to hear. I often go to my family for advice, when I know I’m deciding one way and I know that I may be wrong. It’s something that is very important to me, because sometimes outsiders have a better view on things because they don’t have feelings and emotions caught up in the situation. My family always tells me their opinion because they think it’s best for me, so that’s something that I cherish.

  • Thank you, Alex. Perspective is always worth at least 100 IQ points!

  • Travis Mattice

    The questions you ask are really important ones. I think that everyone should take the time to stop and think about them. Figuring out the answers might make you even closer to your family. Family to me means those people closest to you. The people who support you and who had a role in making you the person you are today. To me family doesn’t have to be just someone related to you by blood. It could be anyone who is important to you in your life. I am sure that everyone has a different take on it but I think that’s what makes families unique.

  • Family to me is forever. Through think and thin. So Travis, if people aren’t part of your blood/adopted family, how do you know they will always be there when you are not, so to speak, riding in a limo, but when you are taking the bus?

  • ryanhaberer

    This article made me really think about who to really consider family. So many of us just consider the people we are related to or live with our family, but in all reality everyone we deal with on a regular basis is essentially our “family.” We should always treat people like our family, if we are in need during times of trouble and wished to have help isnt it only fair that we do the same for others who need it as well.? I know that I could definitely work on communication with my family on things that bother me. For years I bottled things up instead of dealing with them and I have learned through hard knocks that if you just stay quiet the problems can never be fixed.

  • And if you keep things bottled up, you never give others the chance to help you, and feel good about being needed by you, either. Right?

  • atozzi

    I completely agree with this post. Family is very important! Treating your employee’s like family really does make a difference in the long run. I have found that people are more likely to stay and be more dedicated to a company that has a policy of treating their workers like family and looking out for each other’s well being.

  • HelpHealth002

    Thanks for writing this post Mark. I think this is something that’s useful for everybody that wants to eventually have their own families, to read! It’s something I don’t think many people think about, but is very important! Family to me means that they have your back. They will fully support you in whatever you pursue and are always there to help you when your down. I think very close friends can become a part of your ‘family’ too. You don’t have to be physically related to be a part of somebody’s ‘family’ in my opinion. Do you agree?

  • sergio moyano

    that is very true, when we feel as employees that we belong to something big or important, we work harder, we are more efficient and we care for the well being of the company.

  • sergio moyano

    great article and i agree completely with the idea of treating your employees like family, family will go the extra mile for me and i think employees will do the same if they feel they belong to something like a family in the work place, they will not let me or any company down, we have to make them feel like family like they belong to something special while working for the company even if it is little, it counts.

  • earose14

    Family is by far the most important thing in my life! They mean the world to me and I would be lost if I didnt have the close relationship that I do with them. I dont often think about how important it is to tell them you love them every chance you get. Staying in contact with the ones close to you is very important because any day something could happen to them. Being open to your employees and showing you care about them just like you do your family is a good way to treat them. Showing them that you support them and appreciate them will hopefully help you out in the long run. Letting them know how you feel will also help them to become more comfortable with you. What does family mean to you? Can anyone be considered part of your family? Thanks for sharing this great read.

  • Hillary12

    When I think of my family I think of my immediate family first which includes my mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, my cat, and my dog. My family is who is at “home”. They are the ones that are always there. I have never really thought about the role I play in my family before so for starters I could start to try and have a real-adult role in my family. I’ve always been the youngest so I don’t think my role has to do with financials or security. I’m there for my family when they need someone and they’re there for me. My family is the most important thing in my life and they love me as much as I love them, even though I can’t think of what my role is within my family.

  • Mizu4TheWin

    This is a very thought-provoking article. The stories explain very well about what family means or could mean. I only have one spot of advice: How does The first part of this article connect to the second? I understand that there is a connection of family, but even if there is a mantra of everyone in his family at the workplace it certainly is not the same.

  • Theresa Fitzsimmons

    Thank you for this article and the two stories. In response to what you have questioned I will answer what family is to me. I would say I have a really large family. My immediate family members include my mother, twin sister, and my dog. My mother and sister fall under the category of blood relation and what the typical definition of family is to me.
    I also would include my closest friends from high school in my family. Our group consists of nine including myself in the group. No matter how many months we may go without seeing one another it isn’t weird when we call each other or hang out. Each of us could hang out together in a group or alone. I always know that I would do anything for them and they would return the favor. This is what family means to me. One role that I play is whenever someone is struggling or just needs someone to hang out with I’m there. I have been given the name Mother Theresa because I still don’t hold back on yelling at them to put a jacket on if it is cold out or telling them to eat there fruits and vegetables. One thing I could do better is try and keep closer contact with them as we all begin to complete college.
    Any suggestions for me to stay closer to my family members if they move away?

  • What do you do, and don’t do, to treat employees like a family, in a business?

  • So if you share in the company gains, you will feel more a part of the company and committed to it. But will share in the losses, missing paychecks, possibly losing benefits in bad times? What are the non-monetary keys, Sergio, to employee commitment?

  • Family is forever — they have your back when you’re wrong, on the wrong side of something, etc. How do you know if someone not technically family is one of those people?

  • Outside of financial ownership, what makes people feel like they belong? How does that differ among different kinds and ‘classes’ of people?

  • What criteria would you use for ‘anyone’? And would that criteria differ if you were me instead of you, or over time in different situations?

  • Yes, what is your role? Great question. And what about your family role as giver and taker with your animals? How does that differ from people?

  • How does the first part relate to the second you ask? What do you think? How about one angle: giving back to someone who has given to you. The ‘covenant’ that love and family are a two way street. Does the giving back to a person, the loyalty to them, necessarily involve an act or acts directly involving them? Answering these questions will answer yours.

  • Certainly, geographic moves are a large part of life today. Most of my family members don’t live near me any more – one of my daughters works in Panama (my wife and I are in Boston). So how do you stay close? Share values, love similar things, argue and discuss in supportive way issues you both care about, etc. Heart-connections transcends geography, though making an effort to physically get together – whether once a year or more — is also important. That’s a start for you. What do you think, Theresa?

  • Taylor Schaeffer

    Being away at college I am not with my biological family a lot but I am fortunate to have a family in my swim team. We support each other and push each other to be successful. You said that to reach your dreams you need to help others reach theirs and that is exactly what my team does for each other. We push each other to be the best we can possibly be, when someone on the team improves in a way it makes me improve as well because I practice with them and they push me to get to that next level with them. I really enjoyed this post and I am excited to look into others that you have written.

  • Caroline Isabel Alsept

    WOW, boy did that bring tears to my eyes, pulled at my heart! What an incredible story, I’m looking forward to reading the others. Family is extremely important, and it isn’t always by blood that makes you a family, its love for one another and truly being concerned for the welfare of the other, its something that comes naturally for me, even in these trying times… Thank you as always Mark Albion for an inspiring article.

  • This was a fantastic post! I truly love and appreciate my family for all that they do for me. Family to me doesn’t just stop at just my immediate family and extended family. I feel like my family encompasses all of that plus my friends as they are like brothers and sisters to me. They all mean the world to me. They are so supportive and step in to help me through any problems I have. I don’t know what I would do without my family.

  • sergio moyano

    well i think that culture is a big thing that makes people feel like they belong, for example some people might like to work with more hispanic people because they may share same culture and language.

  • Culture, absolutely. Thank you, Sergio!

  • It will be interesting to see how many of your teammates you are still close to in 40 years. And yes, this is one of the great things about team sports, Taylor.

  • Thank you, Caroline. Love comes in many shapes and forms, and is always good.

  • You must be a good sibling and child to be getting so much love, too!

  • Caroline Isabel Alsept

    Mark, so very true, just got so excited when I saw you commented that I had to show your article to my 74 year old Mom, ahhhh, she wont stop crying, good happy tears!!! Thank you again…

  • You are welcomed, Caroline. Happy tears, good! Best to your mom 🙂

  • What an amazingly heartwarming article! Family is definitely a vitally important aspect of a person’s life. Not only do the members of one’s family help support and protect that person, but they can also provide guidance, insights, and a source of comfort. However, I do not think that a family only consists of those in your immediate family, or those who are related by blood or marriage; I believe the concept of family goes even further to include close friends and other significant people in your life who provide you with that support and guidance.
    I absolutely loved the quote at the end of the article – “We are all angels with one wing, able to fly when we embrace each other” – because I believe that it encapsulates the importance of family and close relationships in one’s life.

  • Caroline Isabel Alsept

    Thank you, Mark. It goes without saying how much I love this site and authors like you! All the best to all of your family in every shape and form, two legs and four…

  • Zintia Martinez

    For me family means love and life, I include in my family everyone that brings love to my life. From my mother, father, brother, sister, nephew, cousins, friends, boyfriend, co-workers, my dog every single person that brings love to my life. I do not imagine my life with out them. I wish I can spend more time with them and I hope one day I can make them proud of what I am because everything that I do is for them.

  • tygonzalez

    This was a very touching article, family is extremely important! Family is also very important in the workplace.

  • What do you mean, ‘family is also important in the workplace’? How so?

  • Wonderful, Zintia. How do you think you could make more time for family?

  • How do you think ‘family’ relationships, Stephanie, and ‘close’ relationships differ? And how might that matter to you?

  • Taylor Schaeffer

    I don’t think that many of them will still be close to me in 40 years but I do believe that a handful of them will be. I am just grateful that I have them all here for me now

  • Well said, Taylor. Be grateful for what you have now and can be, now.

  • Nicole Myers

    Thank you for such an inspirational article. The story about the two brothers is incredible. We need to stop every once in a while and think about our family. I am a student far away from home and sometimes I forget about the people who brought me into this world. I need to cherish every moment with them and thank them for all that they have done for me. Thanks again!

  • d_millyy

    Love that you brought friends into the word family. For me, I have my family that I was born with but I also have my best friends who family and they treat me as a member. It’s amazing to have almost two families because then you learn from each other and can use the way one family communicates with your family. That’s how I am, my best friend’s family is always together and doing things, so I try to bring that mentality over to my family. Do you think it’s important to have another close family other than your own that you can learn from and go to? Why or Why not?

  • hmcavey

    “Family first” is what I see so many young adults posting on social media, yet you never see them actually engaging with their family. Instead you see a slew of pictures of endless nights and self-centered actions. I guess the question that needs to be answered is, who do you consider family? Everyone views family differently, some consider our close circle of friends, while others their teammates. Regardless, we should hold them in high regards and treat them how you would want them to treat you. By building strong relationships where it’s a two way street, they care for you and you care for them, it a sense of belonging occurs. It’s one of the best feelings in the world but yet we feel it so infrequently.

  • Leahrebout

    I grew up in a pretty large family and it was the best thing in the world. We are all so close and without them I wouldn’t be who I am today. The people you associate with most often are those who have the most influence on your life. You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family and luckily for me they were the best role models I could have had. Thanks for your posts Mark, they always bring a personal fell to them.

  • Shaquille Boswell-Downey

    i think family is a person or people who are there for you when you need them and vice versa, point blank. You can have a brother and sister but that doesn’t make them family it just makes them blood. If those siblings were always there through everything and never judged you and helped and wanted you to grow to be a better person then those siblings are family.

  • Ananda Conlon

    I know that I am always sharing my good times and my struggles with my family. I know that they will be there for me through it all. This goes both ways. Even though I am away at school, I think that it is important to still be prevalent in each other’s lives. With that being said, I think that I have adopted a “second family” while being at school. My close group of friends I also consider my family. I like to stay in touch with them and celebrate the successes and help them with their struggles.

  • Ananda Conlon

    I agree. I think that so many people are posting these long posts on Instagram or Facebook on mothers day/ fathers day/ a parent’s birthday etc. that that parent will never see. This makes you question. Are they doing that so their friends think they have a close knit family or is it truly a place for them to express gratitude. I really hope for them that they really have a great support system because I do not know what I would do without my family. I just chose to spend my time calling them rather than posting something that they will never see.

  • Ananda Conlon

    I like that you took note that family is not always by blood. I know that when I am away at college, I have my close friends that I consider a part of my family. We share a very close bond similar to what I share with my brother. It is a two way street and thats what brings it stronger than a friendship for me.

  • Ananda Conlon

    Taylor, I like that. I am not on a sports team, but I am in a sorority. Although I probably wouldn’t consider myself to be extremely close to all 120 of my sisters, I know that if I knew one of them needed me, I would be there for them in a heartbeat. They are more like an extended family when my immediate family is farther away.

  • I do think it’s wonderful you can do it, just if it is not your ‘family’ understand that unlike family, it may not be forever.

  • You are welcome, Nicole. What will you do to ‘stop’ and cherish them more, thank them, and the like, so this current thought becomes a regular practice?

  • Why do we feel it so infrequently? What do we need to do not just to talk about in a moment, but to actually do it?

  • We go through different stages in life. I remember when my older daughter was in college, saying to me, “Don’t worry, Daddy. I’m going through a phase when my friends are most important to me. I’ll be back before you know it.” I think my 23-year old daughter, a little less mature for her age, is going though that right now. A natural part of self-determination is figuring out who you are and we first do that by becoming different just like our friends are different. Over time, that identification changes. So just be aware, communicate with your parents, and don’t wait too long to realize that your family is with you always, friends not so much.

  • You are welcome. And you are very lucky. How many people in your family and what did your parents do to ensure this closeness?

  • Yes, being always there for you – whether you are ‘taking the bus’ or ‘riding in a limo’ (as Oprah puts it) – is important. Everyone is your friend when you’re in the limo; who stays with you when you are taking the bus?

  • I am fortunate to still have 4 close friends for the past 45-50 years. But to do that, Ananda, it takes effort to stay in touch as you geographically disperse, have families, divorces, different kinds of works and hobbies, etc. Will you put in the effort or simply talk about it on social media? That’s the question for me and your generation.

  • Ananda Conlon

    I most definitely agree with that. I have a very close friend that I have maintained a strong relationship with since we were 5. I have noticed that even after my three and half years in college, that it is has been difficult to keep up with friends from high school. Even living in the “social media age” this helps with that, but those relationships tend to be superficial and less heartfelt. I think that my generation needs to take the time to learn how to build strong relationships that will last 45-50 years. This was probably not a learned skill in the past, but I think that it might be as time progresses.

  • Ananda Conlon

    I agree with that. Friends do come and go, but family is always there for you. It is concerning that not everyone thinks this way. There will be those select friends that will stick with you, but it is not as common and time passes.

  • Caroline Isabel Alsept

    That’s for sure, Thank you Amanda! I know when I lived abroad for over 22 years my friends were like an extended family, we were always there for one another, even better I think, sometimes, because no one crosses the boundaries, they stay respectful..Good luck in your studies and love is all around us, just have to open our eyes..

  • Nicole Myers

    Well, being that I am currently a student and very far away from home I try and do my best to call and see how they are doing. I like to stay in contact with them but I feel that I could be doing a better job. I am very close to my mother but maybe contacting my dad more frequently would not only make him happy but make me happier as well. It is the simple things that i sometimes forget to do.

  • Life can be seen as our drives for intimacy (more feminine) and adventure (more masculine). We rarely put in the time necessary to develop and nurture intimacy that we put into our work. I see your generation questioning work as well, which I think is a good thing. But the question is whether your generation will put in the work in their ‘intimate’ relationships. For example, my 27 year old daughter is working in Panama this year (we live in Boston). Her best friend from college and living together (with 4 other girls) took a week off from work in Connecticut and made the 5000 mile trip to Panama for a week. That’s what I’m talking about.

  • It takes maturity and experience — usually some tough times — for us to realize that. When a friend isn’t there, doesn’t come up with what they promised, or simply gets too busy, you begin to realize that family is always there, through thick and thin. That you are a priority to them, and hopefully, them to you.

  • Yes, a call and an ‘I love you’ or ‘I miss you’ is all parents need to hear. How long does that take? Not long.

  • Ananda Conlon

    Wow, yes. Those are the types of relationships that matter. That is a large gesture that her friends made for her. Those are the types of relationships that really enhance our society. I think that there needs to be more of that.

  • On the other hand, our younger daughter’s two month roommate and ‘best friend’ today her Dec 1 she was moving out that day and not paying her half of the rent, leaving my daughter high and dry (Mom and Dad to the rescue). So it goes both ways…

  • Ananda Conlon

    This is also very important to remember. Sometimes it is difficult to see what someone may do. I hope that your daughter is able to remember the good times with this roommate and be able to move on remembering the good qualities rather than just the poor. It can be difficult to see the other person’s perspective in the moment as well especially when it is leaving you in a large deficit. I also went through a similar situation with a roommate as well.

  • Leahrebout

    There are 7 of us kids and then just in my immediate extended family there are about 30. Getting together for holidays tends to get pretty crowded :). We are a farming family so I grew up a mile away from all of my cousins, grandparents, etc. There was never a time that somebody wasn’t around, if we were bored we hung out with family because we didn’t have to go far. Now even though most of us are grown and farther away we still remain close and it makes me really appreciate growing up with so many people.

  • Schudakp21

    I watch this show called Supernatural and its about 2 brothers that fight evil together. In every season at some point they say “Just because you are blood does not make you family” or at least something around those lines. This has always grabbed my attention because yes I am very very close with my family and could not be happier. I feel so fortunate because i know a lot of people that barely know a thing about the people that share their DNA. So thank you for writing this article, it was a great read and im glad i read it.

  • Chris Williams

    The first thing that came to my mind when I read “being a family”, I thought of my friends here in my college town. They are great to be around for numerous reasons and they make missing my biological family a lot easier. It’s great to have a second family when you can’t spend full time with your biological one.

  • Chris Williams

    I agree with you completely. It is great to have a solid group of friends that you can call “your family away from your family”. It is truly a great feeling to have.

  • Travis Mattice

    I never really thought about it that way before. I think that if you spend a lot of time with someone and know them really well usually they will be there. But I have heard of situations where peoples so called best friends stab them in the back. I guess it just comes down to how well do you really know someone.

  • Kaylee Raucci

    Thank you for the post! I love this little story. It is inspirational and truly shows what family is all about. That you are wiling to do anything for your family members. Everyone works together to become one big happy family. I know family comes first before anyone else. I personally am close with my family, we love doing things together and spending time with one another. I could not imagine life without my family, I wouldn’t trade them for anyone else. Family to me is like trail mix, separate they can manage, but together it’s ten times better and more delicious than ever.

  • Camillewuensch

    This was a great article and I loved both of the stories. I think that family is one of the most important things you need in your life. Families see you at your lowest and worst but will always love you and try to help make you better. I think that friends can also become your family. Friends are like your family away from home. For me the only bad thing about that is with friends I feel like many could let you down and not want to help you when your at your lowest. Many people today have the mind set of if your bring me down why should I keep you around. Family I feel like will always be around and the older adults helped take care of me so I’m going to do my best to help take care of them.

  • Kaylie Mae Kuhnke

    great post! when i think of family i think of the people that would have my back no matter what happens in my life not just blood family. of coarse my father, mother, brother, and sister are my blood family along with grandparents, aunts and uncles who would do anything i would ask of them but also friends that are more like family. my family is my life i love them with all of my heart and my best friends who i include in my family as well. a family to me is not just who i am related to but also the people who have my back and i have theirs.

  • DBrownDreamer

    To be a ‘family,’ means to love unconditionally. This can be from a blood relative, professional colleague, or collegiate friend. Family means to support someone with loving and thoughtful criticism. To empower, validate, and push another towards their dreams. That is what families do, others (who are not your family) would never care to do as such.

  • Wow – that’s wonderful, at least to me, as I live the typical suburban life where no one gets together without setting up a time via a phone call. I did grow up in the 1950s, later with three siblings so it was pretty wild, but unfortunately our family was spread out geographically. You are lucky and very ‘wealthy’ with love!

  • What has helped make you ‘very very close’ to your family? Is it something your parents have done? Do you live in that kind of community?

  • Good point Chris. They are a good temporal ‘substitute’ for these years. Well-said. We all know, however, not to confuse that situation of now with family, which is forever.

  • Classic line, Kaylee: “Family to me is like trail mix, separate they can manage, but together it’s ten times better and more delicious than ever.”!!! Thank you. I hope you’ll maintain ‘family first’ throughout your life and career.

  • Wonderful of you to feel the love and responsibility of ‘family.’ I love your line: ‘Friends are like your family away from home.’ As I said to Chris, a temporary way station, where some stay around longer, some not so long. But not the same as family, as you pointed out. Family is forever.

  • As long as those friends continue to have your back, not just when you are ‘riding in the limo’ but also when life takes a tougher turn and you are ‘riding on the bus’ (Metaphor from Oprah Winfrey). For as you said on Facebook: “You’ll grow up very disappointed if you grow up thinking everyone has the same heart you do.” I really like that point. Thank you, Kaylie.

  • So true – family is there always, especially when you are most in need, and least able to help yourself, or often, to admit your needs.

  • Yes, when money becomes involved, Travis, this is often the time that you find out if they are really your friends. As Kaylie said below: “You’ll grow up very disappointed if you grow up thinking everyone has the same heart you do.”

  • Camillewuensch

    Thank you! I do really rely on my group of friends and that people that I work with to make me feel good and not miss home as much. It’s nice to have people that you can go and talk to over calling family on the phone. Do you think that there is a time where family isn’t the best choice to go to for help?

  • Yes, In fact, in my 40 years of helping young people on their career path, parents are often the worst people to ask. Grandparents can be good and often friends can offer insight into what you you love and are good at better than anyone.

  • Tom Ashmus

    To me, family has nothing to do with blood. You could be blood related to someone, and they could be less of a family member than someone with no real blood line. Family are the people that are always there for you, no matter what, and that doesn’t always mean your actual family.

  • Tom Ashmus

    I agree and I like the part about family means love and life. Family are the people that you can genuinely not see yourself being able to live without. This doesn’t necessarily mean blood, it could be friends, or even a mentor.

  • Camillewuensch

    Would you say that parents are the worst to ask because they have more feelings about what your doing with your life and always want you to be succeeding and making sure you make a living? And I can see grandparents I mean they have been around longer and have more experience with topics and things then I do.

  • Schudakp21

    Honestly, I don’t think I could pinpoint a single thing that has made my family as close as we are but more as a collection of things. First, my parents have always taught us that family is the most important thing in the world because they are they constants in your life. Another thing might be because of how close in age us kids are. The difference in age between the oldest and youngest of us 4 kids is five years so I think that since we all grew up together it has helped us be really close. Another could be because of the community we grew up in. I was born in the suburbs and have lived in such a friendly community my whole life and have been very fortunate.

  • Jack Delabar

    I agree, Nicole, and thanks, Mark. I often forget about my family at home because I have formed a new “family” in a different state. It’s always nice to go back home and remember those who made you into the person that you are.

  • Jack Delabar

    I agree, Tom. As I mentioned, I have formed a new family in a different state than my blood family. They are no less or more important, but I would lay it on the line for either one of my “families”

  • Jack Delabar

    Family doesn’t need to be blood. Being far away from home for school, I have made a new “family” with my close friend group. I treat all of them just as I treat my blood relatives and I would do anything for either one of them, just as I expect they would for me. Something I could do better is express my feelings to them more often, but that’s not really the kind of man I am. They know how much they mean to me without me physically saying it by my actions relating to them.

  • Travis Mattice

    Very true. Sad, but true. If only everyone did the world would be a much better and happier place. Since you mentioned money, what do you think would happen if we didn’t have money in our world? What if we traded and or worked in order to receive the things we need. Do you think that would make a difference in how people are?

  • There are many confounding factors with parents, and much research on this. You get ‘cleaner, clearer’ input and perspectives, in general, from others. Doesn’t mean you don’t listen to parents, just need to be aware and weigh their comments with others.

  • Thank you. Sounds like a lot of “small deeds done with great love.” (Mother Teresa)

  • I do. While I know we are spiritual beings living in material form, and thereby recognize the importance of the material (and thereby money), I believe we have made money a God in and of itself. This is a real problem. I think barter might help diminish the contamination and have seen this in my own life.

  • Travis Mattice

    I like what you say here. I think people are way to materialistic today and forget to focus on what is really important.

  • What do we need to change, Travis? This is a question I’ve been working on my entire life.

  • Yes, I think it would make a big difference. Money has become an Idol, replacing God, community, family and love.

  • Travis Mattice

    Ha well I think you are working on a great question. Not a very easy one either. But I think it comes down to living a more simple life. Do we really need some of the stuff that’s out there today, absolutely not. People are working on ways to make life “Simpler” but in all reality it is not needed. I think if life went back to survival of the fittest things would probably be better too. I am not saying that in a bad way but it would sure make things easier. You can’t contribute and you can’t help yourself well you are on your own. I feel like no matter how I put that it sounds wrong. But I think getting rid of currency and getting rid of things that are not necessary would be a good start.

  • Travis Mattice

    That is so true. That is another way to improve the world. I know there are many types of religions out there but if we took away all money and turned to our religions and followed what Gods word says and do things just because they are the right thing it would make a great improvement in our world today.

  • I like to say that happiness is making sure your ‘H’ (what you have) is equal or greater than your ‘W’ (what you want). So if you lower your wants, makes it easier, as you said, Travis.

  • I think so too. As Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s [money – Caesar’s face on the coins],render unto God that which is God’s.”

  • Austin Dorman

    I couldn’t agree with you more here Jess! Your family isn’t only you immediate family, I have a lot of people in my life that I consider family that I’m not even technically related to. I have 2 really good family friends who have been there for me so much and taught me so much. To me, I consider them family. Sometimes, if I haven’t seen them in a while, when I go home I will spend more time with them than I will with my actual family. The term family really is a personal and different for different people.

  • My 27 year old daughter had 6 very good years with roommates (5 at a time) and now is in Panama and has an older roommate who is very negative and patronizing driving her crazy. She said last night that she is thankful for the 6 good years, so she accepts that she can’t have great roommates all the time. Very positive.

  • As they say, Money can buy you a mattress to sleep on, but not a good night’s sleep.

  • Great for the time being, Jack, but will they still be there for you 20 years from now?

  • Really. What makes you so committed to your friends, whom you couldn’t have known for more than 5 years or so. I have 4 close friends of 45-50 years, and while I would go pretty far for them, I don’t think that in most cases I would ‘lay it on the line.’

  • Slepicka12

    When i think family i think of being around the ones you really love. Like i have 2 families. I have my immediate and extended family which includes my parents, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandma. and my other family is my close friends. i don’t feel that i play a certain role in either family.

  • Slepicka12

    It is really hard being away from family when we are at school.

  • Do you see how those families differ in your life today, and tomorrow?

  • Slepicka12

    Yes I see how both families differ in my life today and tomorrow. Being away at college you don’t really get to see your immediate family so you bond and build a new family of friends. Like with my friends I always feel like I’m at home.

  • What does it mean to you, if you don’t mind me asking, to ‘feel at home?’

  • hicksjd11

    I really enjoyed the quote: “relationships we have with others begins with the relationship we have with ourselves”. I think that this is absolutely true. If we have a poor relationship with ourselves, it’s likely that it will come off and spread to relationships with friends and family.

  • shackletka05

    Thank you for sharing! I really enjoyed this post because family holds a huge importance in my life. I grew up with a bigger family so there never really was any time to think about only ourselves because everyone already throws themselves into each others business. I never saw it as forced though, I saw care and protection from my siblings and parents. I truly soaked in the advice they had to give because I knew it was coming from their hearts. If we choose to care for others the way we care for our families, there would be stronger relationships in our lives.

  • hicksjd11

    I agree. I don’t go to school too far away from home but it’s still hard to find time to see or even talk to them on a regular basis. This article helped me realize the importance of making the time.

  • tyler

    This was a heart warming post. When I think about my family, I think about the people who I can count on, and the people who will always be there for me no matter what. I have good and bad times with my family, but they will always be my family. The struggles we go through, we know we can count on each other. I think growing up, you really have to strive to stay close with your family especially because everyone is going separate ways and such. As we know, family does not have to be blood. Some of the closest people to me are not blood, and I have no problem with that. My family means a lot to me, and I love that. Family just makes you feel a way other people cannot do for you. This was a great post about family, it made me think about mine and my role in my family. It also made me think about areas I can improve in. What advice would you give people who have no relationships with their family?

  • Matthew Manley-Browne

    I agree with your comment, in order to have a healthy relationship with others, you have to have a healthy relationship with yourself. If not, people will pick up on insecurities and not treat you the way you would want to be treated.

  • thomas kearney

    I really enjoyed this article. Family to me is being able to depend on a group of people through thick and thin. I think there are different forms of this their is family that is blood related and there are people that are considered family because of the amount of love and support that they give. I usually call and check on my family back home while I’m away at college. I honestly don’t know what I will do if I didn’t have a strong family for my support system.

  • Carly Konkol

    You’re so right. As a college senior I am learning more and more that it is hard to find true friends that will last a lifetime. Right now, I have about 2 good girl friends that I know will stick with me for the rest of my life. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.

  • Nicole Myers

    It totally is. What do you do to connect with your family members when you are away? Phone calls, text, skype?

  • Two is amazing, Carly. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “The better part of one’s life consists of friendships.”

  • You need to be ‘whole’ to have ‘whole’ relationships, I agree.

  • And your relationship will often be driven by your insecurities — dealing with them, satisfying them, etc., don’t you think, Matthew?

  • Great lessons to learn from a larger family. A real benefit of a large family. Any drawbacks? I was an only child for 10 years and then one of four since then, and could elaborate on differences I had. So interested in both sides of your experience to date.

  • Thanks for sharing, Tyler. I’m careful about giving advice, but when I do, it is simply one person’s perspective. I remind people that family is forever. That when you get older (I’m 63) you realize how most friends come and go, but if you don’t forgive and forget, that can happen to family, too, which is a real loss. We are social animals, and there is something good in everyone, even those family members who drive you nuts. So, forgive (maybe not ‘forget’) and move on, or you are missing out on one of life’s greatest joys.

  • Why would you not have a strong family for a support system, Thomas? I’m sure you continue to put yourself into your family relationships and keep on giving and helping those who you love, and love you.

  • nbaker3

    This is quite a significant and truthful article examining love as a human concept that starts with self-respect. On Monday, it was MLK’s big day and the quote “We are inevitably our brother’s keeper as we are our brother’s brother. What affects one directly affects us all indirectly” causes me to reflect about how I can serve others. All of us have a chance to help others everyday. When we recognize our own need for help, we will respond to the ‘us’ in others. We see others as part of us and that motivates us to love all people.

    In the business world, the “love” or sympathy of worker to customer and visa versa not only allows for funner business but higher productivity economically and socially. Think about it! If the customer is more willing to buy from the business for the worker and the worker is willing to work harder in order to present better quality service or products, then both of them will be happier because the business will increase in revenue and the customer makes good on their purchase.

  • rped

    Being a part of a family is not only important for our own psyche, but it allows one to grow immensely in the areas of social interaction and personal growth. A family can mean many things to many people, but the underlying core of the idea of a family is to support and trust and share at a very intimate level, where only a family can provide. We should all have a chance to be part of a family unit.. 🙂

  • Shae Moyano

    great article and i agree completely with the idea of treating your employees like family, family will go the extra mile for me and i think employees will do the same if they feel they belong to something like a family in the work place, they will not let me or any company down, we have to make them feel like family like they belong to something special while working for the company even if it is little, it counts.

  • Thank you, Shae. How might you NOT treat employees like family, for the better?

  • Katelyn Vaughn

    I really enjoyed this article and I found some of the comments to be very interesting as well. In my opinion, being a part of someones family does not have to depend on blood or biological nature. I consider very close friends of mine as being a part of my family, too. I think that if you can truly trust someone, depend on them, they show you love, care, and support (and you show them the same) that sounds to me like what it means to be a family. My family and friends have been the biggest blessing to me, and without them I do not know where I would be today.

  • We are all angels with one wing, able to fly only when we embrace each other.
    We all need support. Glad you have so much of it, Katelyn. You are blessed.

  • Radaya123

    Love. What is associated with love, care, happiness, empathy, maybe. So it makes sense that if you act like your business is a family and you love your family then you do things out of love, which usually result in a positive outcome.

  • beautiful….

  • hansends21

    Over the past year I have really been focusing on what family means to me, and my views have definitely shifted a little bit. My parents are going through a divorce currently and it has been hard on everyone. My relationship with both of my parents has struggled because of it, my relationships with my sisters has increased however, one being my biological sister and the other my best friend who was adopted into our family. I have realized that no matter how hard it is, each of these relationships needs just as much care and attention from me as the next. I may be super mad at my mom and very happy with my sister, but I love them both and they need my attention no matter how I am feeling with them at the time.

  • Sorry about the divorce, but as you said, each of these clouds have a silver lining. Never too much love to go around. That’s a wonderful focus.

  • Vanessa Roman

    Family isn’t just blood related, it is having a connection and love for others as well. Really enjoyed this article, thank you.

  • You are welcomed, Vanessa. Tell me more. Are friends more of a “family” member for life than a sibling?

  • Vanessa Roman

    Mark, I believe that friends are considered to be part of someones family. In my opinion, both siblings and friends can be family for a lifetime. It depends how long the individual wants to be part of that friends or family members life. Thank you for the question.

  • Thank you for your answer, Vanessa. And at least you can choose your friends!

  • Kyle Gettelman

    This article was a fantastic read. I have never really thought about what I am doing for my family, or at least truly sat down and thought about it in depth. I think one of the things we need to focus more on is creating that “family” mentality between our relationships, not only the ones who are already considered family, but those who mean very much to us. This would improve our lives, in many different aspects!

  • Julia

    As I grow older, the meaning of family has increased in importance. When I was in high school and a young teenager, I wanted nothing to do with my family and would always find a way to get away. Now that I’m away at college, I have realized who will always be there supporting me and who will slowly drift away. In the end, family can be one of the biggest support systems a person has. As we grow older, friends drift away and become unimportant while family becomes the only thing we have left. As I continue to grow older, I appreciate my family more for being there when I need them and being the support system I need. Family is a big part of life and having a family, blood related or non-blood related, can boost our quality of life due to interactions with others. As human beings, we need this connection with other individuals to be content with ourselves.

  • Thank you for sharing, Julia.

  • What is a “family” mentality, in your opinion, Kyle?

  • gaulrappkj17

    I totally think this article really has a lot to say. We all need each other. We take that for granite and when we are alone and no one is there to help us, then, this is when we get mad and upset and irritated when there is no one there to help. I strongly believe that each of us has a duty to take care of one another. You see an elderly woman trying to cross a busy street, help her across! You see this is something I feel America has lost. We do not want to take care of others, we are too busy to even notice when someone is in need, and this is so sad.

  • Kyle Gettelman

    This is going to be cliche, but I am okay with that, for my response. Having the “family” mentality is knowing those who will do anything, anywhere, at any time for you. It may be blood related, it may be marriage related, it may be acquaintances, that does not constitute this view at all, what does is the values that we place on them, such as honestly, loyalty, dedication, love, passion, faithfulness. Does the average citizen believe this to be part of a family? Yes, I believe they do, but they do not UNDERSTAND it, and many times, do not live by it. Unfortunately, we follow so many “paths” in life that are all about us, that we neglect or do not even consider our “family” anymore. Its a Give/Take ratio type of thing. Give 100% and Take “only as much as you NEED” %.

  • I especially like your comment, Kyle, “we follow so many ‘paths’ in life that are all about us, that we neglect or do not even consider our “family” anymore.” It is so true how easy it is to get distracted from what is truly important in life. Thanks for sharing.

  • RadebaugVP02

    Although I don’t think it should be this way, I feel as if a lot of these lessons we learn as we grow older. As several other people have said in our younger years this wasn’t much of a priority for some of us. Now that I’m in college and have been for awhile, my ties with my family have changed immensely and it’s made me realize how important family actually is to me.

  • Taysia Justus

    I love the quote “To reach your dreams, you need to help others reach theirs”. This has been a passion of mine my whole life. I believe that connections, whether it be family or just personal connections can make all the difference in a persons life. Nothing is more fulfilling than when I know I made a positive impact on someone’s life.

  • Taysia Justus

    I work in a very close work environment. When you can begin to see other relationships in your life as family, such as co workers, it makes everything a whole lot easier!

  • What makes you see them as “family,” Taysia?

  • Why is it so fulfilling to you to know that you’ve made a positive impact on someone’s life, Taysia?

  • Distance make the heart grow fonder?

  • Why are we “so busy” compared to our ancestors? Shouldn’t all the technological advances make us less busy?

  • RadebaugVP02

    honestly yeah. It shouldn’t be this way but it definitely is in many cases. I feel that when we are younger we take a lot of things for granted and realize it when we are older.

  • How can you, then, speed the process up? How can you realize these things younger rather than older?

  • Marlee Williams

    I don’t think being a family necessarily means you have to be blood related. There are all types of families and everyone would consider different things as “family”. Yes, I have my “real” family – mom, dad, sister, etc. But I also have other families. My best friends are my family. My soccer team is my family. I would even consider my coworkers and I to be a family.

  • Ashleigh Hartlaub

    I think you are so right! You don’t have to be blood related to be considered family. I have different kinds of family and they aren’t blood related.

  • Ashleigh Hartlaub

    Since living in a different country for a couple of months. I really got to think about how important family is to me. You only get one blood related family and each moment with them is so precious. As my grandparents get older I want to be with them even more so that I have amazing memories with them.

  • Paige

    I agree that you dont have to be blood related to be family. Just like you said my bestfriends are my family. People that are there for me whenever I need them are my family.

  • Paige

    Like many people have said, family is not just someone related to you through blood. I have had my closest friends be there for me at times when my family couldnt and i could not tell you how much that has meant to me. Family is so important to me as it is to most people. My friends are my family and I would not trade that for the world.

  • Do you focus your energies, your time, your concerns, on others in your family and make that a priority, or does it still take a backseat to other personal concerns, Paige, at this point in your life?

  • Time is short, Ashleigh, as you say, and there is no human representation of love more pure than that between grandparents and grandchildren.

  • Does it matter how long they are there for you, Paige? Often friends in college are nowhere to be found 20 years later. Are they still ‘family’?

  • What different kinds, Ashleigh?

  • There’s an old expression that goes, “Everyone wants to be your friend when they get to ride with you in your limo. Who will be your friend when you’re on a bus?” Will your soccer friends be there for tough times you may encounter in your 30s, Marlee? Family is forever. Are your friends?

  • Desiree

    family to me is the most important thing ever. Family shapes who you are a person and its a support system that will always be there no matter what. my biggest role model is my mom she has been through so much and but still manages to put family first before herself and i appreciate everything she has done for me and for everyone around her. my mom is not only a parent of mine shes my best friend, i don’t know what i would do without her. My family is my mom, dad and my 4 siblings, i don’t see them that much but i know i cant live without them.

  • Is it geographically hard to see them? How does your Dad impact you, compared with your Mom? Why the difference? Are you ok with that?

  • Talent Davis

    Family is central to a healthy existence because they are often a source of love, support, and laughter. They help to mold or morals, values, and belief systems. They can also be the same force that challenges our beliefs too! Family, can also help to give our lives meaning and remind us to be altruistic and tolerant of each others differences. Conversely, family can also be a force of destruction and hindrance. Our family traditions often dictate the course that we take in life even if we want something different. This causes friction amongst family members and often also causes an internal struggle because a person may be ostracized by their family for being unusual. Different people respond to these things in various ways. Some capitulate and follow their family beliefs while others forge a new but lonely path to discovery. In any case, I think its important to realize when the role your family plays in your life is detrimental versus beneficial to your well being. In all, family can be your worst enemy or your safe haven, but what ever the case never stop loving them. Instead, take the good and the bad and turn into a template for how to improve the family relations for the family you may build in the future or for the families that you may impact.

  • Hannah Katz

    The word family brings many ideas to my head. Coming from a very tight knit family, of course my nuclear and extended family comes to mind first but then my friends too come to my mind. Growing up I always lived in the same neighborhood as my cousins and grandparents. I basically had three houses. I could walk into any and know I could get unconditional love and support. Besides love,I also knew that means I have a lot of extra eyes always on me and they too would criticize and tell me things I sometimes I did not want to hear. This, however, is called tough love in my eyes. I really connected with this article, because it discusses a biblical story from the Talmud that I learned about in religious school as well as a story I read in high school. I very much enjoyed the story in the Talmud, with each brother giving back some of their shares to one and other. I know I would do that for my siblings and I think I can say the same for them. Sadly, not everyone can say that. That is perfectly normal and all right too, but I think it is important to value family and to find your family. The ideas of family, love, and support have always been ingrained in me. I see my parents’ careers one that is a family business and one that is basically a family. My dad works with his brother and
    sister-in-law. I always said growing up how that would be the last thing I would want to do and cannot imagine working with family. However after growing up and moving away from home, I realized how nice it is to have that support system. Now being away from home, my friends have become my family. It is vital, in my opinion, for a healthy life to have a family, biological or not, wherever you. I think you need that sense of family to flourish in a career. I think growing up with my background will greatly encourage me to look into a company’s culture when finding a job.This further showed me the importance of family. It is so important to have a support system and people you can always fall back on. This will make your career happier and healthier, which will lead to a happy life.

  • Thank you for sharing, Hannah. In fact, this week’s parshah (Mikeitz), and the beginning of next week’s (Vayigash) looks at this story from a different angle: the development of Joseph brothers from point fingers at other brothers and blaming them (Joseph into the pit) and taking responsibility and protecting each other, as Judah does with Benjamin. We need family at the beginning of life, and at the end of life; so it is with what comes in between, too… as you said so well.

  • Yes, Talent, every relationship has a happy and a sad story to it; it’s up to you which one you cleave to.

  • jaquelineandrews
  • Mark Albion

    Read your “The Value in People” blog, Jacqueline, and enjoyed. A question for you: How would what you wrote work in societies not based on the individual (e.g., in the U.S.) versus societies based on the community as the “unit” of concern (e.g., in large parts of Africa, “ubuntu,” or in my religion we have Biblical Judaism”)? We live in a society so focused on the individual, but many are not. How are people, as individuals of all cultures and interests, honored and respected properly in your belief system when you live in a society based on uplifting the community as the primary focus? Thank you.

  • Ann Matthews

    I really liked this article because I also believe that being a family is extremely important to being successful. Having someone you can always rely on is one of the main benefits of having strong family connections. My favorite quote in this article was “Relationships we have with others begin with the relationship we have with ourselves”. I have gone through some rough patches with my family where we did not get along very well and I did not feel a strong connection with them. However, as the years have gone by, I have been able to be more confident in myself and getting to know myself, I have been able to form stronger connections with my mom and siblings and this has been very beneficial to my personal successes and my personal happiness.

  • Mark Albion

    Thanks for sharing, Ann. What helped you get more confident about yourself over the years. Simply the years and maturation or something else that could help our readers?

  • Jac Williamson

    What an entertaining article to read! I loved both of the stories he shared. The third fledgling’s response really hit home with me. I know my parents have committed and dedicated their lives to making sure I have the best life they can possibly provide. Growing up around that constant selflessness, it has instilled the same values in me. I know when I have a family of my own, I will do whatever I can for my children as my parents have done and still do to this day.