member, Human Development and Harmony Cluster, Pamayanang SanibLakas ng Pilipinas
Promotion of consciousness on families and friendships as synergies
Consciousness of families and friendships as vital building blocks of bigger (community, national and international) synergies
Repudiation of sub-cultures for small-group separativeness, like rumble-prone fraternities, clannishness or tribal mentality, sectarianism, and 'pakikisama' mainly for negative actions and behavior.
Adoption of family interaction ideals in friendships
Families and friendship circles as natural groupings for light-sharing ethics.
Marriage as ideal meeting point of synergism paradigms in Friendships and in Family life-- discernment for choice of partner, real preparation for marriage, continuing development and enjoyment of holistic romance between the partners during decades of marriage to further develop its inner strength.
1. Total Human Development and Harmony Through Synergism
2. Holistic Health Care and Medicine
3. Deep Ecology and Harmony with Nature
4. Sense of History and Sense of Mission
5. Civics and Democratic Governance
6. Culture as Community Creativity
7. Light-Seeking and Light-Sharing Education
8. Gender Sensitivity, Equality & Harmony
9. Reconstructive/Restor-ative Justice
10. Associative Economics, Social Capital and Sustainable Development
11. Synergetic Leadership and Organizations
12. Appropriate/Adaptive Technology
13. Mutual Enrichment of Families and Friendships
14. Human Dignity and Human Harmony: Human Rights and Peace
15. Aesthetics Without Boundaries: 'Art from the Heart'
A Proposed Subject for Social Research:
By Ed Aurelio C. Reyes
Founding President, SanibLakas Foundation
First published in A Gathering of Light for Empowerment, 2002
A QUESTION was posed once in a personal sharings session of “Sanib-Sinag” in Quezon City: “If you got mauled by some neighborhood bullies, to whom would you likely run for help or justice? To your family or to your friends?” A similar question would be: “If you just won an award, or a prize in a raffle, or if felt so very blissful right after you forge of a new romantic relationship, to whom will you make the first happy announcement, to your family or to your friends?”
Your answers to these questions would probably indicate where your emotional ties, or even where your innermost bonds, are. After all, in moments of extreme pain or danger on the one hand, or of extremely joyful delight on the other, you would seek to share the feeling and the experience, or the news, to people closest to you. So, the questions on your choice are actually made to ask you: “to whom do you feel closer, to your family or to your friends?” The ones chosen over don’t have to resent and sulk.
The answers would vary widely on account of as wide a variety of factors.
“But aren’t you actually describing friendship itself?” another sharing participant asked with a smile.
“Actually, yes,” the first one admitted. “But as our having grown up together under one roof makes for some special closeness with all my brothers and sisters, unique bonds of friendship really develop between me and each of them. The same with your classmates or sports teammates, you do get closer to some than to others.”
And the sharing conversation continued, with the other participants coming in with their own contributions from personal experiences.
Sharings on this topic deserve to continue well beyond the time and place and personalities of that particular sharing session a few years ago. We are in fact proposing a wider serious study of this in order to draw some observations and lessons that can help many people make both our family ties and our friendly relationships really close and fulfilling. Such a study can go a long way in shifting our mode from being resigned to perceived rivalries between family ties and friendship, to fully exploring the potentialities of mutual enrichments between these two sets of personal bonds.
Considering that the family has been called the “basic unit of society” such perceived rivalries in the context of a general weakening of families at least in urbanized communities pose to us a challenge to avert a weakening of society as a whole by seeking to transform such competition to complementation.
Hopefully, those who may be interested to pursue “phenomenological” (mainly qualitative) or even statistical (mainly quantitative) researches and analyses on this subject may be helped by some points of observation and analysis that are offered below. Of course, these need much enriching by many other people who would consider this area of psychological and sociological study important.
Personal Bonds as Unique Synergies
Personal bonds are developed by each individual on the basis of shared experiences and according to that person’s hierarchy of needs. All these are human synergies, where each party enjoys from the interaction a magnification of her or his own strengths and capabilities, and fulfills the basic needs of the human person as a social being, including self-actualization and self-affirmation.
All these bonds make up the synergy, the collective strength and stability, of any human community as a community. Without these bonds, any concern for the community, any enjoyment of belonging to a community, would be abstract and actually unattainable. You can’t seriously claim to love the whole of Humankind and then add that, “It’s the people I can’t stand!” You can’t convincingly claim to love your country without imagining the faces of many real people you actually do love as representations of that country. You cannot know the whole while ignoring the parts. You have to see both the trees and the forest.
Although all these personal bonds make up the reality of community and society, the depth and nature of specific personal interactions or ties vary widely. They range from the level of being friendly acquaintances and functional interactions to that of close friendships where bonds develop on many levels and upon a set of mutual needs being satisfied, all the way to being very close friends and close-in team-ups where the parties relate with one another and are enriched at the deepest personal levels or at levels deemed by these parties to be most important (according to their respective value systems).
The personal bonds that we -- often half-consciously -- develop with persons around us are shaped by our unique personal needs within our unique personal circumstances. In a way, there is at least a mutually-accepted, though unwritten, commitment to a set of expectations from each party. These range from the minimum expectation that the other person would not do you harm intentionally, and would act in civilized behavior, or would contribute something for a common interest, or even assist in some way when the others need help, all the way to formalized commitments of fidelity to relationships, like marriage, or to common missions and tasks, like membership in organizations.
When the expectations are not met, or especially when one or some, or even all, could not or could no longer maintain the commitment, the bond slides down in level or may even be completely ended. Many of the expectations are frustrated because they had not been clearly agreed to in the first place by the parties. In many other circumstances the parties may have benefited from a brief interaction and were satisfied with that one-time pleasant interlude, and saw no need or possibility to relate to each other any further. This happens very often with simple acquaintances, too often in fact to be noticed and remembered, that such friendly acquaintances really just come and go in our lives.
Beyond friendly acquaintance, however, there are two kinds of personal bonds that last longer and touch the parties’ lives at least a bit more deeply or profoundly. These are relationships within a nuclear family, and relationships among friends, let alone among or between close friends. Family and friendship relations have their own respective characteristics that make for advantages and disadvantages.
Families and Friendships: Comparison and Contrast
Both the familial bonds and the friendships play important roles in the comfort, growth and happiness of each individual. They both provide the circumstances needed by each one for self-actualization, self-affirmation and overall growth. They jointly hold up to each one a mirror of oneself.
Of course, one who faces any mirror would have to acknowledge, even if painfully, what is seen there. One needs to take criticisms from other persons. After all, most of these criticisms can be made useful, and some of them may even be valid.
One has to acknowledge the respective biases, personal values and various other factors as “grains of salt” one has to take in with other people’s comments, and choose well which comments to believe, which to note well, and which to just smile at.
So, while an individual would need to be flattered once in a while by the “Mirror on the Wall” as to who is the fairest of them all, one would likely have the inner preference for a mirror that is “brutally frank.” At the same time, no one would be happy with a mirror that tends to face away from you, a mirror that is unavailable or otherwise unable to show you a fairly accurate image of yourself. Both the family members and the persons you’d choose as your closest friends are generally available to help you out with your need for a mirror that you can trust; but many times many of these family members and some of these friends do not know how to make full use of whatever time is available for physical togetherness to give you that sort of support you need. At times, they just lack the familiarity or sensitivity, or both, to detect your own very subtle and even half-conscious way of screaming for help.
What are the innate differences between family members on the one hand and friends on the other? While family ties automatically result from the shared blood circumstance, and are therefore basically permanent, friendships are basically choiceful and transient.
You don’t get to choose your relatives; you just get born and find yourselves in the same family or in the same clan. They did not exactly choose you, either, but you can make them glad to have found you in the same family with them! Although a common upbringing together under one roof often result in a shared value system during the formative years when the children are still generally receptive to influence from the same pair of parents, commonality of genes do not at all make for similarity of character, habits, tastes and peeves. There would, therefore, be a lot of conflicts, including emotional ones, while they are practically forced by circumstances of home setting to continue sharing common bedrooms, using the same toothpaste tubes, and tolerating one another’s personal habits.
Still, these are the persons who know you best, including most of your worst personal habits, including how terrible you look when you really look your worst. The problem with many family members is that they tend to concentrate on remembering your worst, and do not bother to express, or at times even notice, your positive points. And because love is supposedly automatic here, something “to be taken for granted,” many family members, especially the siblings, don’t bother to express such love with “terms of endearment.”
What often makes it worse is how the factor of permanence of the bond plays out here. Siblings, for example, can assume they don’t have to resolve emotional conflicts among them, and may tend to just let time gloss over these. In some cases, time does heal and they would be prepared to laugh together later about their earlier conflicts.
However, in some other cases conflicts or at least the really deep resentments accumulate, and the affected parties, or at least one or some of them, would feel trapped in the permanence of their having to remain as siblings. Instead of appreciating the permanence as an endless stream of opportunities for endearment and mutual affirmation, and for resolving conflicts when these occur, they tend to suffer the permanence as an “endless period of mutual tolerance,” or even a constant “cold war.” In this situation, the feuding siblings often forget that they have already shared years upon years of common weal and woe and have helped and forgiven one another countless times; they somehow accord more value to what friends have done for them over much shorter periods.
(The tendency is to appreciate more the endearing gesture from a friend, because it’s supposed to be essentially “voluntary,” than a bigger favor or even a countless stream of favors from a brother or a sister, because it’s supposed to be essentially “done out of duty.”)
Close friends often start off as friendly acquaintances who know only what one would choose to let others know or have to let them know about one’s own personal habits and history, generally excluding the most embarrassing parts. Friendly acquaintances often afford you the comfort of “quiet” companionship. There is the enjoyment of having some fun together or even just laughing together about some very forgettable thing or other. In this setting, they are happily away from disciplinary lectures from parents or other authority figures.
Such enjoyment is also available to family members, especially between arriving home from work or school and going to bed, but no effort is made to seek and give the availability of family members for this, especially if pressure is applied and is resisted. In some cases, the size of the family, the age gaps between the siblings, or the necessity of focusing all time and energy to breadwinning for survival, would become the challenging factors. To some people, spouses have become pressure figures they would rather be away from when they want to relax. Even in the face of mounting problems in the family, including its mounting expenses, married couples have to learn to relax and enjoy together.
Many of us would tend to feel relaxed with friends or in other words more “at home” with them than with those people we live in the same house with.
And you choose to develop close friendships with some of these friendly acquaintances or choose to allow the development of such close friendship, calibrating which things to reveal about yourself at any given time, to ascertain their levels of trustworthiness. And as a close friendship gets cherished, you tend to be willing to walk the extra mile to maintain it. After all, because friendships are transient, you are aware that you can still possibly lose it anytime and you choose to try your best not to. Here is where terms of mutual endearment and mutual support are deemed as needed and expressively appreciated in a continuing stream.
Still, when a conflict does erupt, friends have the option to keep away from one another for a while, even for weeks on end if needed, and then slide back to normal togetherness after resentments cool down a bit. (This option cannot easily be chosen by feuding siblings who have to share a bedroom every night or by feuding spouses who share the same bed; here, taking the option of keeping apart can be dramatically traumatic, and one would likely choose to suffer the conflict in silence, and, worse, just “get used to it.”)
As some of your friendships get closer, you get to be known more intimately by your friends than by your parents and siblings. While the latter tend to have a frozen picture of you on the basis of your latest meaningful transaction with them, your current close friends get front seats, even active roles to play, in the drama of your life as it unfolds in real time.
This situation holds both the positive and the negative potentials in terms of influencing the lives of young people. On the one hand, friends provide you with listening ears to vent your woes into, with shoulders to cry on, with sources of affirmation, for persons who need such support badly. They would even offer a lot of wisdom and prudence to the desperately confused or self-resentful. On the other hand, bad feelings and tendencies to rebel can, and at times actually do, get mutually-reinforced and result in the group finding themselves together in more trouble than before.
These two tendencies are often present simultaneously and often contend with each other; the situation is often saved by those group members who had been given enough moral foundation by their respective families before they even ventured out to bonding closely with peer groups. The problem is there may be a growing number of parents who alienate themselves from such groups by exerting pressure on their children to stay away from their peers who they fear might be a “bad influence” on their children. Worse, a growing number of parents have chosen to abdicate or have been forced to abdicate on their role of giving the “good influence” (moral foundation-setting) on their children much earlier.
Metaphors and Metamorphosis
Nuclear families generally live together under one roof. Parents and the children, who are not necessarily the natural offspring of either or both of them, are expected to do so, sharing the family home and the food on the table. Close family relations have been built in this setting for centuries, even for millennia, on end.
Closely-knit families were still the rule much more than the exception at the time the Katipunan was gathering a synergy among the diverse communities in our archipelago to birth our nationhood and win our national freedom. That is why Andres Bonifacio, the Katipunan founder, chose the family as the central metaphor for the nationhood that was being birthed: the Katipuneros professed their love for “Inang Bayan,” called themselves “mga Anak ng Bayan,” and called one another kapatid or sibling. But the Katipunan leaders were careful not to be racist, and they even campaigned for relations among nations based on the same bonds of symbolic siblinghood, which he explained as the philosophy behind the ancient practice of having blood compacts. They instituted their own version of such a compact by signing their oaths of allegiance to the Katipunan in their own blood.
Up to much more recent times, closely-knit families were giving meaning to the words “para ko nang kapatid” referring to friendships so close that the bond is almost like that of siblinghood. No blood compact accompanies such descriptions but the elements of intimacy and mutual trust and intended permanence that we discussed above are realities lived and enjoyed by all concerned. These and the phenomenon of extended families that include close friends, are living metaphors of the family as a healthy and happy synergy. They result from choiceful inclusion, intended to be permanent, into a framework of unity that is both innately automatic and permanent.
The readiness of a family to “adopt members” reflects a certain level of self-confidence and a generally wholesome attitude to the rest of society outside its own bloodline boundaries.
There are, however, some metaphorical allusions to close family ties that do a disservice to the latter. One of these is in the formation of many student fraternities (brotherhoods) and sororities (sisterhoods) whose behavior as formalized friendships defined to be dedicated to some social service is very much tainted by a long tradition of mutual antagonism with some other parallel groups that are basically identical with them, a sub-culture of violence that tolerates, even abets, violent initiations within the organizations and violent rumbles among rival groups. Enjoying the loyal tolerance of alumni who are considered permanent members but whose development of personal maturity has not been tapped as a moderating influence, these groups have apparently been trapped in their glamorized traditions of violence that have destroyed their social image.
The violent routines, and their constant preparations for these, have dissipated energies that could have been focused, instead, on the voluntary social services they have offered. Worse, the rivalries have prevented many of these groups from achieving magnified capabilities in working together. Such a mixture of formalized and ritualized friendship, with the expected permanence of narrow loyalties, has been an unfortunate one. There is hope for change, though, if enough people in the position to influence these groups would exert enough unified efforts to effect such change.
We can also talk of metamorphosis, of transformation, where a close friendship actually develops into a family relationship. This would involve something like a blood compact, but blood from the parties to this kind of compact is mixed not in wine as in the ceremony between King Sikatuna and the representative of the King of Spain, and neither in signatures affixed to a sacred document such as the Katipunan oath, but mixed in the begetting and conceiving of offspring, of new human incarnations and channels of Life. This is the delicate transformation of simple friendship to romantic friendship, to marriage.
Within the friendship stage of this process, there is a transformation of needs and expectations being mutually served. It can and often it does in fact begin with some physical attraction and gratification between the sexes, and seeking to fulfill the personal and social need for steady dates and all-around companionship. Then it gets more serious and develops into an exclusive commitment for mutual courtship, and still more serious in ascertaining and confirming compatibilities for a life and continued growth together, including a comfortable and effective teaming-up for joint parenting, and, once ascertained by both parties as “meant to be,” preparing the relationship itself for the next stage, which is marriage.
The act of choosing one’s life-partner, and the quality of mutually-supportive and mutually-fulfilling interaction between parties of such a relationship before their marriage, would generally determine the quality of interaction the partners would have within the marriage and would thus showcase for their children what sort of wholesome relationship can be developed and enjoyed within the family. They can thus lead together by example.
What value systems are chosen by both partners for their family to live by would not necessarily determine the stability and level of personal fulfillment they can expect to achieve in the marriage and in the family life. The more important factor is that the partners are compatible enough to be able to resolve discrepancies and really harmonize their respective personal values, and to choose to live by a cohesive and consistent set of values. Otherwise, they would be forced into a running competition for influence on their children and/or into a permanent state of mutual toleration, even if we assumed that they could manage to stay “together” just “for the sake of the kids.” They suffer this, instead of enjoying deep love and continuing mutual enrichment for as long as they both shall live.
And the children growing up under the influence of such behavior would probably adopt this same competition and mutual toleration mode among themselves as siblings,
Mutual Enrichment, instead of Painful Rivalry
There are real opportunities for building friendships within the family, friendships among family members, of varying degrees of closeness and in varying levels of development. These are real opportunities for loving one another really fully, in the words of Jesus Christ, “as I have loved you.” My Christian background makes me invoke the very first two words of the prayer that the Christ was said to have taught us: “Our Father…” By starting with that phrase, this prayer invokes the family as metaphor, and teaches us a profound lesson in jointly acclaiming our personal choice to love one another as members of one family.
Family members and friends are really living the lesson from this when they love one another -- “As I have loved you” --- closely and consistently, whether or not they mention God or Christ at all. I’m sure there would be equivalents of this in other religions; but I’m not familiar enough with them to have the confidence even just to attempt to discuss about them.
Family-oriented programs and projects of Christian institutions and organizations, like the various Christian churches, may consider adding to the effectiveness of their efforts by helping their members see and love the Christ in each one of them and the Christ in their midst, in their strong unity or synergy. Shifting their attention to other matters, especially “heavenly themes,” would somehow allow their members to simply paraphrase Lucy of the Peanuts comic strip and say: “I love God, I love Christ, I love the Church, I love the Pope and the bishops and the priests and the pastors and the deacons and ministers, and the nuns… and our benefactors and friends and the poor and the sick. I love Mankind. It’s just these people all around me everyday that I can’t stand!”
I know of families who had prayed the rosary on schedule everyday, but with most of the family members resentful of being forced by their parents to be present for it.
The approach doesn’t work in having a family that stays together. I offer this paraphrase: “The family that prays together, with its members really living the prayers, stays together.” In fact, this goes beyond families. The inner synergy (“innergy”) of the family can come a long way in contributing to the social synergy of the bigger community, in bigger and bigger concentric circles of inclusive embrace all the way to the Global Human Family and the entire Cosmic Whole (which we also refer to as “Creation”). In this manner, inner family relationships can and still do contribute to the enrichment of all other social relationships.
Unfortunately, many married couples and many siblings feel more the pressures of permanence and of external factors (like parental authority, or the marriage contract), forcing them to cope with, to get used to, prolonged toleration. Worse, a married person can become increasingly vulnerable to temptations of extramarital affairs when he or she finds more emotional and spiritual (not religious) support or all-round gratification and affirmation from friends of the opposite sex than what his or her spouse is willing or able to give.
As mentioned above, siblings actually share years upon years of common weal and woe and help and forgive one another countless times, but they somehow accord more value to what friends have done for them over much shorter periods. Thus, many friendships are often given more focus in nurturing and are allowed to substitute for family ties, often unintentionally contributing to the latter’s further disintegration or demise.
Both the bonds of kinship and the bonds of friendship can be functioning side by side as complementary personal bonds with their own varying levels and forms of mutual personal support, their own varying bases of endearment, and their own varying opportunities for common enjoyment. If these are handled erratically and reactively, or, worse, overreactively, one can ruin the other and both can get ruined eventually.
In the history of human development, families had been viewed as mechanisms for material resources accumulation, with the royally wealthy often engaging in arranged or even incestuous marriages to keep the wealth in the family or in the same small group of allied families. In the more recent era of encouraging extreme individualism, the stability and integrity of nuclear families have given way to other, more choiceful, groupings of people for their collective and individual needs.
In the Philippines, as the economy worsens and more and more families need to send one of the parents to overseas work or to have both parents employed in order to survive, the closely-knit nuclear family of centuries past has been drastically weakened.
The basic unit of society has been falling apart.
Research Challenge for Socially-Valuable Lessons
The unhappy situation described above does not have to be, or remain to be, if all the respective elements for strength in friendships and in family ties were discovered, enhanced and consciously developed in consciousness and in daily action, and if conducive external conditions for them could be created in place of adversarial ones.
The challenge I offer here, therefore, is for social research institutions and committees within and outside the Lambat-Liwanag Network to mount a coordinated research effort on this subject and its high potentials for socially-valuable lessons. My inputs here need validation and much enriching by many other people who would consider this area of psychological and sociological study important. In fact, this has been pre-enriched, before finalization, by my personal editor/consultant and SanibLakas colleague, Ms. Joydee C. Robledo, and the magnitude of development of ideas that took place after we discussed my earlier draft showed us both how a much wider synergy of minds can really give this area of human concern the close analysis that it deserves.
I am not offering any concrete suggestions at this point on how to undertake such a big effort for best results including positive social impact, except perhaps to say that families- and youth- oriented organizations and projects, including spiritual and religious ones, should be reached and drawn in to be actively involved.
Jointly and individually, we of SanibLakas ng Taongbayan Foundation, and of the Lambat-Liwanag Network that it has organized, offer to contribute whatever we can to this effort. But after the circulation of this article, we want to hear the other people’s responses first. The responses can come in the form of contributed stories and insights during personal sharing sessions like the sessions of “earnest human conversations” that we mentioned at the start of this presentation. They can even come in the form of complete theses or dissertations that richly validate and/or convincingly refute, any or all of my observations and assertions here.
for friendship, the synergy of lives that deeply touch one another,
for marriage, the synergy of lives vowed to be intertwined till the end,
for 'kapatiran' or siblinghood, the synergy of bondings that last, as fellow-cuttings from the same womb branch out and grow apart,
for family, the synergy of marriage, parent-child love, and siblinghood, born and nurtured in the warm embrace of home,
for earnest conversations, the synergy of information, views and feelings that are shared with honest humility and are heeded with genuine respect,
for the synergy of all our smiles, happy and proud to be part of it all.