THOUGHT OF THE DAY.  Yesterday we saw three seemingly unconnected events that shocked the world. The murder of Australians by an extremist in Sydney, the slaughter of children by the Taliban in Northwest Pakistan, and the murder of six family members by a distraught Pennsylvania veteran suffering from PTSD. While none are directly connected, all are related, and ultimately can provide a lesson for understanding a family conflicts.

We tend to look at events as isolated: something that is evaluated on its merits as if each is a stand-alone occurrence. We rightly believe that there can be no justification for the murders that occurred over the past few days. The immorality of the three events is unquestionable.

But when you heard about them was your first thought to condemn each atrocity or try to understand what precipitated it? Unfortunately, some people equate “understanding” with “forgiveness.” The two are separate. Understanding why something occurred doesn’t justify it. Rather, it can provide lessons how to prevent it.

In the early 20th century, George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It also applies to family conflicts.

A family member does something “unforgivable,” and we often can’t get beyond the injustice that was done to us or someone we love. But rarely is an event immaculately conceived. The laws of physics not only apply to nature, but also to our actions. Life isn’t carried out in a vacuum: A occurs, followed by B, and eventually C.

As we look at events that create moral indignation—outside and inside of our family—we might want to go beyond our initial visceral feelings. Yes, condemn barbarous acts, but also try to understand them. If not on the world stage, at least within your family.

Moral indignation may lead to just actions, but by themselves can’t prevent new ones—as current events repeatedly demonstrate. You may not be able to affect the state of the world by understanding it, but understanding can improve family relationships. You might be interested in my free ebook on preventing family conflicts.

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2 Responses

  1. Heidi Macalaster

    Dr. Stan, I agree wholeheartedly that the world and what occurs within it is highly attached to individual and family stability. We all live in a world filled with chaos. The media constantly bombards children with violence, adults through sex and violence, war and trauma. Veterans are returning home unable to get the images of horror out of their minds. We are a people who have never learned from history for we do not see ourselves within that context. Generational sin, repeated governmental and empirical demise, religious wars, love and hate. It seems every time you turn around there is someone hating someone else for that, “one more thing”…it is those “one more things” that can push an individual over the edge into a state of mind that confesses that chaos in a physical manner. I do not have the remedy for this, but as you have said we do not have to condone it, but coming from a professional standpoint, these events can be understood in the present and through times past.

    • Stan Goldberg

      Yes, I know the feeling. At times I think I’m caught in the middle of on outdoing riptide where my only escape is swimming sideways until I can escape the riptide’s unstoppable force.


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