What does “family” mean to you?  (Part 1)

Stephanie Brun de Pontet
Brun de Pontet

Part 1: Defining family

A friend recently asked me this question and it caused me to reflect. Many of us identify family as our “top priority” and we strive to live up to that principle in our personal lives or in the complex balance of our family business collaborations.  Yet, how do we define “family” today and what do we expect or want from family?

If we think about family as society’s core building block, we can understand it serves many important roles.  Your family should be a “safe harbor,” a place where you can be yourself, where you find and offer love, security and acceptance. Family is anchoring as it represents your past and roots, yet it should also be a place where you grow and foster growth in others, accepting and celebrating change. Family is your closest personal relationships, your most profound commitments, your tie to the broader community, a reminder you are not alone in this big universe…

While most people’s families include traditional “players” such as parents, children, siblings, cousins, etc., many of us also count a broader range of close others as part of our core family, what Jay Hughes describes as your “family of affinity.” Jay’s concept relates to the intimate circle of friends and associates you develop over your lifetime – people with whom you have shared key portions of life’s journey, who know and understand one another deeply, support each other through heartaches, and celebrate triumphs.  Bonds with this group are built through many shared experiences, laughter, stories, traditions, and mutual support. They may not be “kin” by blood, but they are an essential part of your “tribe” – and for some whose traditional family is not well equipped to provide them with safe harbor and understanding, this family of affinity is their truest anchor.

As humans are inherently communal, this sense of connection and being understood is among the most precious experiences we can have with one another, and an enormous benefit of family, no matter how defined.  When we work with our family every day, we can lose sight of this broader purpose and role they play in our lives.

As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, set aside the big and small challenges of your shared responsibilities for a moment, reflect on the full range of your “family,” and share your gratitude with each of them for the richness they bring to your life.


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