• Rajah E. Smart, Ed.D.

Family--Sonny, it’s Just a Made Up Word

Updated: Sep 21

One of my favorite movies is “Shawshank Redemption.” There’s a part of the film where Morgan Freeman gives this definition of rehabilitation that applies to various life contexts. For this discussion, family is the made-up word. Family is defined as the descendants of a common ancestor or group consisting of parents and children living together in a household. I have been told on multiple occasions that you can’t pick your family. That statement may be true as a child, but as an adult, that’s false. We can choose our family.


Society provides a compass to explain those who are considered normal. I’m considered abnormal due to “personality disorders” or because my thinking is unconventional. I don’t respond to familiar cues of empathy, sympathy, or even care about things operating outside the scope of my life. However, some find comfort in my version of love. Those categories fail to provide people with an understanding of uniqueness. I’ve always been one who prefers to deal with few versus many. Why? It’s inefficient to deal with more people because you have to defend yourself for being different. Defending who I am is not efficient. I don’t deal with people to talk about feelings. I deal with people because there is a need.


My family definition is simple. If I deal with you, you are considered family. Putting me in a room full of folks that are family-based on genetics doesn’t make them family. It means we have a genetic connection. Also, a room full of people is too much stimuli. Often, too much for me to manage. Logically, I never understood family gatherings because I end up speaking with the same people each time. Why? Because I have no relationship with folks beyond genetics. Why attend a gathering to talk with the same people? Cut out all the people and simply meet with the folks who understand me on a personal level. Folks in their feelings will comprehend this in a certain kind of way. It doesn’t mean I’m not open to further relationships—it means I don’t deal with folks who cannot understand various contexts.


Should you have to defend yourself from family? Nope. Family is a place where you can comfortably be yourself. I can’t say that I’ve ever experienced that comfort outside of my childhood home in terms of the family overall. The title of an aunt, cousin, or uncle, doesn’t make give you the right to supply unsolicited advice.


My mother would always tell me that she was criticized as a terrible mother because she pushed education on her sons. Not sure if that’s true, but any person that says that is a fool. Again, someone making their “normal” someone else’s normal. My mother’s sons all are college-educated, generally good men, take care of their responsibilities, and prefer to be free. I will give her that much, she created a happy me. While our home was unconventional and abnormal, we blossomed after the fact. Anyone that believes differently is a fool. Our parents were abnormal; thus, we are abnormal. It doesn’t mean we aren’t functional. While folks call me abnormal, just make sure it’s Dr. abnormal.


Family is just a made-up word used as a catchphrase by fools to make folks adhere to their beliefs. Family is not a conventional mother, father, and 2.5 children. My family is what I make, not what others force upon me. My family is sustaining and supportive, honest, and willing to understand the value of character versus using their context to define another. Be proud of those who know your character versus an attempt to make you feel less than. Remember, no one can look down on you unless you allow them. No one can look down on you if you tower above them.

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