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Royal Family Drama and Your Family Drama

Did you watch Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle? I did not. I am a grumpy old man who thinks that we fought a war precisely for the right to ignore such people. Like a moth drawn to a flame, however, I did read tweets and news articles summarizing and commenting on the couple’s bombshell revelations. They weren’t bombshells to me. I was struck by how ordinary Royal Family drama is. Leo Tolstoy was wrong when he said, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I think all families are unhappy to a certain extent, and unhappy in similar ways.

The Royals are proof. Every family has members, like Harry and Meghan, who distance themselves from the rest of the clan. Every family has members who believe they have not received their fair share, whether it’s a title for Harry and Meghan’s child, or in other cases, affection or a slice of the inheritance. Nearly every white family has a bigot perched somewhere in the tree who asks cringeworthy questions like, “What’s the skin tone of your offspring going to be?” Families hand down more than heirlooms; they pass along ways of stirring the pot. The American divorcée Meghan Markle has spirited off Prince Harry to LA. Once upon a time, the American divorcée Wallis Simpson pried Edward VIII off the throne. Family therapist Murray Bowen observed, “The only problem with parents is they had parents.” The Christian doctrine of original sin maintains that the chain of dysfunction and drama goes all the way back to our first parents. The Good News is that Jesus Christ came to restore us to right relationships with God and with our neighbors. He frees us from the sinful patterns we have been born into and, all too often, unwittingly repeat. What does this look like specifically? Let’s talk about the strategy that Meghan and Harry have chosen to deal with a difficult family situation—distancing. They’ve distanced themselves geographically, and their tell-all interview has surely created some emotional distance from Harry’s family. Maybe this is a strategy you’ve employed or has been employed against you. In the short term, distancing usually brings a sense of relief. In the long term, distancing usually creates problems, because the problem was never dealt with to begin with. Often, the problem resurfaces in another relationship system or in the next generation. The Apostle Paul urges his readers, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Ask God for the grace to be yourself in the presence of family members who are demanding that you be someone other than who God created you to be. If you are the one who is demanding that a family member conform to your image of who they ought to be, ask God for the grace to love them as they are. Staying in touch with our family members by going along and getting along is easy. Asserting one’s independence by cutting oneself off from the family is more difficult but not impossible. Defining yourself, being true to your core values, while at the same time remaining connected to family members who may not share those values, is hardest of all. But that is the hard work we are called to as Christians. Really, it is impossible. Only by the grace of God can we, as far as it depends on us, live peaceably with all.

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