Dear SuHaeng Ja,
My nephew has lost his way, and I don’t know how to help him get back on track. We were best friends when he was younger. Now, though, he’s in court-ordered rehab and my mom is taking care of his young daughter. We tried to bring him up well. He’s had so much more than we ever had as kids growing up and he’s throwing it all away. He doesn’t talk to me anymore, so I don’t know how to help him. How can I get him to open up to me again?
Dear Alienated Uncle,
I feel your pain. You are understandably frustrated with the life your nephew is living and feeling hurt about being shut out. Your situation reflects the concern many parents and adult relatives have for young people today. There is no silver bullet that I am aware of, but you can go a long way toward healing the relationship by exploring your beliefs about independence and decision making.
You say you were friends when he was younger. Are you sure? It sounds like your friendly relationship was conditioned upon him behaving in a certain way. You mention how much he has had in comparison to how you grew up. This does not seem fair. He is a different person, growing up in a different world with different pressures. How well did you get to know what he was most passionate about? Did you ever let him know that it was okay for him to make mistakes, that you would love him anyway?
Maybe you did that and more or maybe you made mistakes in how you communicated with him. But that does not have to be the theme of your story with him.
From an energy perspective, everything is connected and nothing is ever lost. Because change is constant, you have the power to effect change. But you have to start with yourself and the people and circumstances in your life will reflect your personal change.
First, look at how you feel about yourself, how you feel about your changes and mistakes. Do you have a practice of accepting and forgiving yourself? When you don’t forgive, you block your own change and then you cannot use change to your benefit. Change is inevitable, so you waste energy when you judge it, fight it and resist it. You gain energy when you make decisions and take actions in acceptance of what you may fear.
Accepting change means you may begin to see how your nephew may have a different perspective and experience. You can let go of judging him as “wrong.” Accepting change also means that you accept mistakes as inevitable. If he is to grow and learn how be an authentic, loving individual, he may have to learn from some mistakes. It does not mean that you condone destructive behavior. It means that you create a new equation, where bad behavior does not equal a bad person.
Make friends with change and you can become friends with your nephew again. Try to replace your own judgment or guilt with forgiveness and gratitude. You can start to see yourself, your nephew and other people in a different light.
What in the world is a SuHaeng Ja?
SuHaeng Ja: soo-hang jah (n.) One who practices SuHaeng
SuHaeng: soo-hang (v.) 1. Performing an action with sincerity and intention to grow.
(n.) 2. Any practice, such as walking, observing, meditating or exercising, done with commitment and consistency.