Friends Vs Relatives

By Rakesh K Mittal IAS on 11-10-2014

‘God gives us relatives. Thank God, we can choose ourfriends.’ This is a thought I came across somewhere and have found useful. Many of us feel the difference between friends and relatives. At times, I have myself faced agony on account of several relatives but I have no complaint against them and accept the reality of their attitudes and shortcomings with grace. Such experiences in turn made me contemplate on the subject and I would like to share my thoughts.
To begin with, we must accept that every friend is also a relative of many others. Then how is it that as a friend, we find no problem with him while as a relative it would be a different story? Obviously it must be the difference in the attitude of the observer. If, somehow, one is able to develop the same attitude towards both relatives and friends, the problem will disappear. It may be difficult to do so but it is definitely possible. To understand the situation better, let us look at the reasons for this difference. The first reason is that we watch our relatives so closely that their weaknesses are known to us. After all, no one is perfect and even a very good person may have some shortcomings. Most of us have the tendency to dwell upon the faults of others. This tendency quite often shadows the goodqualities of the person and we develop a bias.
The second reason is that relatives like brothers, sisters, uncles and nephews grow together from childhood. They normally begin their relationships with the same status, but as time goes on, this status changes and quite often there is a wide gap between two relatives who were once at a similar stage, be it financial or social. This difference creates a feeling of jealousy and gives rise to the tendency to find fault with each other.
The third reason is undue expectation. Frequently, we are disappointed when we expect too much from others or have unrealistic expectations. Most of us feel that it is the duty of our relatives to help us, irrespective of whether we deserve it or not. Also, we do not even consider it necessary to appreciate and express our appreciation for the help extended by them, taking it for granted. We all like to be appreciated. At times help is not possible despite best efforts but the efforts made should also be appreciated. Instead of doing that, one tends to put the blame on the person who made the efforts and, naturally, this creates disharmony.
The fourth factor which is quite important is the age difference. We have no control on the timings of our physical birth. As we grow in age, we acquire wisdom. Most of us believe that wisdom and age are synonymous while this is not necessarily true. A young person may be wiser than an elderly one butthose who do not believe that this is possible, find it difficult to accept any advice from younger people. Apart from this, at times they exploit the young on the basis of the age difference, showingcontempt or scorn. The young may show patience up to a point, but if the limits are crossed, disharmony is created.
The fifth reason is the fact that once a blood relationship is created, it remains for as long as we live, though it may not have any meaningful purpose. It is not in our hands to cancel it out. While there are legal provisions to nullify a close relationship, such as a marital one, there is no such provision in the case of blood relations. Such relations can he terminated only at a mental and, perhaps, emotional level, but often it is not possible and the result is disharmony.
Having analysed the main reasons for the disparity in our attitudes towards friends and relatives, it is easy to understand why we have more harmony with our friends as compared to relations. Without going into the details again, it can be said that in the case of friends, we have a choice, we do not watch them very closely, we accept the difference in status, if any, we do not have any undue expectation, we do not take the age difference that seriously and we have the choice of terminating friendship rather easily. It may be clarified that here we are talking about good friends, otherwise the chances of disharmony between those who are only so-called friends are even greater.
The message is that it is the attitudes which create disharmony and not persons as such. The need is to change them and if positive attitudes are adopted, there will be no cause for disharmony even with relatives. Wise people advise treating even a grown-up son as a friend. The same is true for a husband or wife as it is equally true for other relatives. Once we remove the possible causes of disharmony, we can have friendly relations with all.

About The Author

Rakesh K Mittal IAS

Sri Rakesh Kumar Mittal IAS (Retd.) had been an administrative officer in Uttar Pradesh state cadre for about 35 years. He is a spiritual man with high moral values and a selfless heart. He has founded 'Kabir Peace Mission'. He has also written several books on positive thinking.