“My family treats me like s**t”…REALLY???

listening to you in my ear

By Kenneth Justice


Kenneth, I’m sixty years old and my siblings still treat me like I’m a little kid!

Yesterday I was having coffee with a good friend of mine who recently returned from a family function involving his mother and all seven of his siblings. While his brothers and sisters are generally ‘cordial’ toward him……none of them ever demonstrate much respect towards him which is odd since he is the most accomplished of all the family.

—-) He has an undergraduate degree and a Master’s degree (he’s the only one of the siblings to have a college degree)

—-) He was a leading professional in his industry for the past 30 years

—-) He recently retired and is a well-respected person in the community at large

Kenneth, you would think that by the time you reach the big 6 – 0 that your family would start looking at you with a little more respect….but nope; there must have been at least half a dozen times yesterday where my sisters said things to me that were really nasty….they just weren’t the kinds of things you say to people; but they think they get away with it because I’m their little brother” he said

I don’t want to repeat exactly what his siblings said to him because that would betray their anonymity but suffice to say; if you have any relatives in your own life who have said things that weren’t very nice, then I’m sure you can imagine the types of things that were spoken.

It all causes me to wonder why families can often be so cruel to each other. You would think that because you related to someone and because you grow up with them under the same roof; that they would demonstrate the most love and graciousness toward you as you get older….yet the opposite is so often the case.

To borrow the colloquialism, “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family”, and from what I understand the implication behind the saying is that some people are born into families with siblings that aren’t very nice…..but as you get older you get to choose your friends; and more specifically you get to choose friends that you actually like.

As with so many issues in life I’m often left with more questions than answers,

—-) Why do some people have relatives that treat them so poorly?

—-) What’s the point in being nasty toward your siblings

—-) Isn’t life simply too short for all the vitriol?

As I was talking to my friend I was reminded of the biblical passage in which Jesus returns to his home town of Nazareth; Jesus was strongly rejected by his relatives and his hometown. Without getting distracted with the religious undertones of the passage; I think it is fascinating that here is this dude who is the most popular person everywhere he goes;

—) He hangs out with the homeless people

—) He hangs out with women that are despised by the suburbanites

—) He hangs out with the people that the rich people loathe and neglect

Here’s this dude that is an exceptional person, and everywhere he goes throngs of people come out to see him…..but when he gets to his hometown; his family and neighbors treat him like s**t.

And thousands of years later in the here-and-now, my friend, and countless other people experience a similar phenomenon as Jesus; co-workers, business associates, and friends treat you really nice……but your own family tends to treat you like a second-class citizen.

I know of a family therapist, a master’s degree couple’s counselor who hasn’t talked to her parents in thirty years because of how overbearing they are; she’s been married for more than twenty years, has a successful marriage and a very successful counseling practice yet her own parents still treat her like s**t.

Of course, not everyone comes from a family like this; and for those who have loving, gracious, and harmonious experiences with your relatives; you probably should be thankful and grateful for what you have in life. Life is definitely strange at times and I definitely don’t have all the answers. And as I get a little bit older each year I’m learning to realize how thankful I am for the friends and loved ones in my life who appreciate me and are always there for me no matter what.

Time for my morning coffee,


P.S.—-) My Drinking in the Culture Tour resumes this SATURDAY in Atlanta! I’m visiting 100 coffee houses this year all around the Western World to meet with fellow bloggers, readers and everyone else in-between.

During the month of March I will be in Atlanta, Chicago, and Pittsburgh…..check out my homepage for a complete list of dates and upcoming locations. I would love to have coffee with you!

Categories: relationships

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80 replies

  1. All we know about Jesus is what the bible tells us. It really isn’t very much. We choose which parts to focus on. What you think about Jesus says more about you than it does Jesus. ,,, “dude who is the most popular person everywhere he goes” One exception might be the place where they screamed “crucify him”.

    • Very interesting comment as this article is about people & their relationships. As I see it Jesus was mentioned as an example not a rule. I think there are important messages in this post, one of which is ‘Jesus understands rejection, by friends, family & followers.’ That is no different today to what it was 2000 years ago.

      Some of my best friends have a really rough time with friends & family.

      What they need is people to come alongside them & accept them for who they are, where they are & not how we would like them to be. As Christians (& human beings) we can make a positive difference in the world. Whether we do depends on whether we spend too long fighting our corner or getting out there and ‘being a Christian (‘being Jesus’) with people who don’t know him & those who do.

      I find that the hardest place to struggle is often in a church because of the attitudes of those who supposedly worship there. Worship (worthship) is actually about drawing close enough to kiss, that is, close enough to hear what God is saying.

      To be honest, that would be a great starting point for many churches.

    • “as I see it Jesus was mentioned as an example not a rule”


  2. Love this post. Let me know when you are in Seattle. I will meet you for coffee! We have the best here!

  3. An important article. When it’s your own mother who gets happy when she says something hurtful, it can take years to get over it, especially when it’s ongoing. The experience taught me to absolutely cherish my son and never let him hear anything of the sort from me. The cool thing is that, as an adult and a neuroscientist, he learned that the expressions of faith and respect he grew up with actually CAUSED him to excel more than he might otherwise have done, believing in his own abilities. So the consequence of my own poor experience is good in his life. I can’t complain, then.

    • Mrsslocum, always good too hear positive stories for sure! So often we only hear of children who resent their parents, so its nice to hear that the positive aspects of the faith he grew up in helped encourage your son to excel 🙂

  4. Although a family is a group of people, in reality it functions more like a unit. We develop our identity in relation to the dynamics of our family. I have a sister two years older, a brother one year older and a sister 3 years younger. I was always closest and most supported by my youngest sister. That birth order has much to do with who may be acting superior over the others. My oldest sister is the one that is most hung up with the past events in our family. She may have felt like a pioneer. She brings up hurtful things any time she talks to any of us. We all wish she was not so fixated on the past. She hasn’t much of a present, suffering from MS. I moved 2000 miles away from my family of origin. I love to visit once a year.
    Your coffee friend is doing nothing wrong unless he hasn’t told them how their behavior makes him feel.

  5. Thanks for this. I have learned over the years that your family is what you make it – members of my family have accused me of pretending to have T1D and other ailments. Others think I am evil and deserving of their hatred because I removed myself from certain familial relationships because it was harmful to my health. And it doesn’t always get better with age. Enjoy your morning cup 🙂

  6. I have very little contact with any relatives besides my mother. I have siblings that live in other states but there is nothing for us to talk about as I didn’t even grow up with them and we are disconnected in many ways. The one benefit of not having family around is that holidays mean nothing. I don’t have to choose who to spend Christmas or Thanksgiving with. Instead, I usually end up working on holidays. I feel sorry for those people who fight constantly with their families.

    • Well, some people might be bummed out about not being with family on the holidays but I totally understand what your saying; because for so many people holidays with family can be very stressful

  7. I have always engaged people who were civil and respectful to others, and distanced myself from those who could not discipline themselves in this way…blood or no blood.

  8. I am 67 and #7 down the list of 9 siblings. I will always be the little younger brother to my older sibs. My youngest brother, #9, is gay. Imagine his issues of respect and acceptance. It is something he feels down about most of the time despite his success and strength in all other parts of his life.

    The approval and respect from our family is very important.

  9. The one thing that you can always count in my family is the truth no matter how ugly. So, a question posed to my 9 year old son about whether my skirt looked nice, was answered with, “It’s a nice skirt Mommy. Just not on you.” I always thought it looked a bit like a lampshade.

  10. The important thing to remember is simply this…”We do nor come from our parents, we come through them”.

    While yes life is too short to bicker if, as a child, (hang with me here) your parents gave you a wrench when you clearly needed a hammer, or if they insisted the square peg belongs in the round hole, then your entire foundation for understanding is skewed. Parents parent to the best of their ability and as we age we can, and should regardless of who a person is, (family,friend) surround ourselves with people who uplift our life, people who make us better people.

  11. Culture Monk, I’m absolutely loving this post!! The 60 year did a lot of outer work to make his life better but he forgot to do the inner work. Sounds a lot like jealousy from relatives, why even waste time processing that.
    Loving as well your whole take on Jesus and who he was. We often tend to use the bible to glamorize him. Not getting recognized by your own people is hard. That said, I love to view myself as Mary Magdalene B.C. I’m on her journey before Christ fully healed her.
    When are you coming to So Cal?

  12. I might often a suggestion here.

    Jesus’ family treated him like that…..maybe……because they were intolerant and had no regard for the sick, poor, lowly, homeless, themselves….. and were uncomfortable with his association. Back in those times there was a lot of myths & legends surrounding illness. Still are today (with mental illness). Back in those times, they thought that you might ‘catch’ diseases by mere proximity and association.

    If the family of Jesus were employed and supporting themselves, they probably resented the time Jesus spent with the needy (and not with them ??).

    I’m guessing, but I did write a long thesis on the History of Herbal Medicine for my formal Herbal Medicine training 21 years ago and have a little knowledge of the ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman & Medieval forms of healing. Remember, that later in the Middle Ages and beyond, they burnt Witches and Healers for healing which they couldn’t comprehend or believe.

    Just like modern day, there was fear of anything that was new, was alternative, was miraculous. People don’t believe in Miracles any more today, than in ancient times. How many medical marvels do we have today, that people couldn’t even begin to dream fathom 50 years ago. They’re not necessarily ‘miracles’, but are the product of people with vision and creativity. They’re the result of research, trial & error.

    How many of the thousands reading Kenneth’s Blog believe in Faith Healing?

    How many of you believe in the Power of the Mind (which has now been proven with Scientific Research, i might add)?

    How many of you believe in the connection between the Mind, Body & Spirit?

    Families sometimes treat each other badly because of something that happened in their own past. Some people fear success. Some siblings are jealous of their successful siblings. Jealousy is a curse (as the saying goes). Some siblings just can’t admit, or accept, that they don’t have the skills, experience, education or ……..ability to succeed in many professions.

    I admit I’m hopeless with computer technology (or any kind of modern technology – still don’t know how to put my mobile phone on loud speaker). I’m not mechanically minded. I never managed to speak good French at school (even though I got honours in the written work). I’m good at Healing though. I’m good at so many things. Most of the many jobs I’ve done in life, I’ve been successful (not in the monetary sense though….LOL). I did walk quit & walk out of a job after 3 months once, because I was verbally abused to the point where I was scared to go near my boss (in case he physically struck me). He was a psychiatrist though. Think he had mental probs of his own.

    Life sucks sometimes. But then, so do some families.

    • Excuse the typos & bad grammar in the above. I’ve had a disrupted day today and I’m tired. Family relationship stuff (would you believe).

    • Gosh Vicki, so many great points you make. There is so much research when it comes to the power of positive thinking in relation to healing and being sick, so I’m totally with you on what you’re pointing out. And your final sentence is so good;

      “life sucks sometimes. But then, so do some families”


  13. Family dynamics set the stage for how you handle all future relationships. Those with critical and unsupportive families can often find themselves marrying someone who acts like one of their parents or siblings. On the other hand, sometimes the poor examples set in your early family life can encourage you to want something better and to actively seek out the opposite in the relationships you can choose to have. It all depends on the underlying inner character of each person. I grew up in a mostly supportive inner family but a dysfunctional extended family. There are cousins I refuse to have contact with because I don’t need or want their negativity in my life. I also have cousins and other relatives I make sure I keep in close contact with because we have always supported one another and want to foster relationships that provide us with some much needed positivity. When we were younger my brother was often jealous of me and didn’t treat me very well, I would ignore him because he was so much younger than I was and he annoyed me. As we grew older we were able to forge a strong supportive relationship by putting our own insecurities and selfishness aside. I truly believe that it is those two things, insecurity and selfishness, that fuel negative interactions with family, friends and any other type of relationships you have. Until someone learns to be secure in who they are, to not waste time trying to drag others down and that all realtionships require effort on both parts they will struggle in building connections with others.

    • I totally agree with the insecurities side of your comment. I’m totally convinced that much of why my sister is the jerk she is, is because of insecurity and never maturing. She’s never accepted responsibility for herself and she always feels a need to be part of a group, even if that group isn’t worth belonging too. She can’t stand on her own two feet ever. It’s pathetic to be honest. Her incredibly nasty behavior has pushed nearly everyone away and then she wonders why everyone “hates” her as she says it. There was a short period of time when she wasn’t so bad but in the last 6-7 years she’s become unbearable. It’s really unfortunate.

    • Being around people like that can become increasingly frustrating. When people don’t take the time to figure out what motivates their negative behavior it often compounds and they become comfortable in their misery. As a negative way of life becomes their habit the people around them lose their patience and it becomes a cycle that benefits no one. Misery loves company even if the company hates misery so the only way to combat negative people is to tell them they aren’t allowed in your life. You can’t control what they do, only the way you react to them. Hope your sister eventually figures out that a negative life doesn’t offer much to live for and chooses to evolve her attitude.

    • Totally agree. I hope that’s the case but sadly I kind of don’t see that happening unless she were to “fall in” with the right group of people, but I hope something changes for the positive.

    • “there are cousins I refuse to have contact with because I don’t need or want their negativity in my life”

      The older I get the more I have found myself doing similar things; I find that trying to be nice and ‘put up’ with their B.S. ends up annoying me then if I just ignore them and keep my distance

  14. My short answer is this, jealousy.

  15. Ugh don’t get me started on all the BS in my mom’s family. It’s totally ridiculous and it still hurts. My sister has become that religious zealot that you tend to talk about and I can’t stand it. So yes there’s a lot of crap there too. I think in some ways family treat other family members like crap because they think they can – oh they’re family so it’s okay. It’s not. I really do wish I could have a more cohesive family but it’s simply not possible. Oh well.

    • Jen, I did not know that about your sister…. how very interesting. Now I guess you’re apart of my little club 😉

    • Oh dont’ get me started on my sister. I love her but she’s just turned into a nasty thing. It’s such an unbelievable bummer 😦 Oh well. Not much a person can do about someone else’s jackass ways.

    • Jen, yea that really sucks. Perhaps she will chill out as she gets a little bit older?

    • I don’t think so; she’s already nearly 40 years old – her better time was years ago so unlikely. Don’t get me wrong – I love her and I always will but her ways have certainly isolated her from much of the family. I just hate it because it means not seeing my nephews very much and I fear what she’s teaching them. But oh well. Nothing the rest of us can do.

  16. Another hot button. Your gentle touch in releasing a wealth of sharing from, and a drawing together of, others with similar and different thoughts/feelings – day after day – is beautiful to see.

  17. Nice posts. You could get sponsorship from Starbucks or Tullys, I think.

  18. Hi Kenneth – I still don’t see Austin, Texas on your tour list. Come on – we would love to host you here!

  19. I’m starting to think I need therapy. I become too codependent on your people’s happiness…. j/k or maybe not…just a little.
    Ugh to this post in my own life. I liked it though…

  20. Family hurts because they know you in a way others don’t. The tone is set by the parents, and only they know the burdens they carried and were reacting to, but that said, we each have the ability and the responsibility to change how we view each other.

  21. Both of my parents are products of the dysfunction of my grandparents. They tried to do the best they could as parents but inevitably acted out of the hurt they received as children. I approach them now with a mix of compassion and distance. I get where there coming from as people, but I don’t need to suffer the effects of their brokenness.

  22. I know my father feels this way a lot. He’s the youngest of his siblings and there is a huge age gap. My aunt was 18-year-old when my father was born. While I don’t remember witnessing anything I would call demeaning, I know he feels like they treat like he’s still five. It can get on his nerves.

    • “it can get on his nerves”

      Yea, my friend talks about it quite a bit. I’m half his age so I guess I deal with that kind of thing a little better, but if I were 60, yea, I suspect I’d be really pissed off

  23. I only wish I’ll build a loving, respecting family I grow up, but these days nothing looks or taste like it use to anymore. Kindness and respect it’s the international language.
    Kenneth, I admire your communication technique 😊

  24. My family also treated me quite poorly. Instead of being supportive and loving they said cruel things to me when I escaped my ex-husband leaving our home and pretty much everything I owned in Florida in the Fall if 2009. My mother would scream at me and kicked me out of her house. I had zero dollars and no car. I became homeless. I completely stopped communicating with my family for nine months with my point to them being: I won’t let you speak to me or treat me horribly. I slowly let them back into my life but I have come to the realization that they live their lives with an incredible amount of fear and are quite unhappy. On a subconscious level they know this to be true but ignore cultivating true happiness. I know their actions and words come from a place of fear, jealousy and their own projected unhappiness. Understanding this about them allows me to be kind because while they exist in that alternate universe I am ever hopeful that one day they will realize, transcend and learn to love themselves and others again.

  25. As I was began reading this, that same passage came to mind. If Jesus is treated that way in his home town by his family, what makes us any different? It’s a shame that the very ones who are supposed to love us the most, treat us the worst. I am very thankful, that with the exception of one person, that has been an issue in our family. We pick at each other, but not in a hurtful manner. Our parents instilled in us respect for each other, our elders and people in general. We should never take our loved ones for granted or the time we have with them. The clock is ticking toward the moment when they will be here no longer.

  26. “Jesus was strongly rejected by his relatives and his hometown.” So uncanny! I had this very same conversation with a friend on Tuesday night. What I know for sure is that no one should tolerate maltreatment from a sibling, simply because they are a relative.

  27. Can’t choose your family – bollocks – a family member’s insecurities don’t make you their whipping block…

  28. Sometimes it is due to poor parenting skills while the children were growing up. A child can harbor jealousy way into adulthood when the child thinks the parent did not pay them enough attention or perceive treatment of them all differently than other siblings. Therefore I suggest from seeing it first hand….the sibling treated like dung, should go off on the others and put them in their place. That would throw them off course, because it’s not what they would be expecting. And now that family is civil towards each other. I laughed, but laughter is what kills the ignorant. Life is too short and way to short to worry about how family and others treat you. How does he treat others is a pondering question?
    Enjoy your trips!

  29. My family don’t treat me like shit, but it seems like they don’t want me to change. I really think you should honour your parents, but living close to them and my siblings would be too much: like giving up somehow. Good post. You have a real talent for getting to the heart of an interesting idea.

  30. I think CS Lewis writes on this topic as well. That line between where the closeness and familiarity of living in one household or being family allows for some lack of social propriety and where a person is losing all propriety and it is no longer ok. It’s a tough subject.

    It seems some people just feel as though “he/she will understand that I’m not trying to be malicious, this is just what I think” when in reality they are crossing a line and being rude.Sometimes just letting people know they’ve crossed a line is enough. If it’s not, maybe it’s time to think about choosing to not spend as much time around the family members that are being rude.

  31. One of the best things I’ve heard around this was, “why are you still making it THEIR job to make you feel good about yourself?”
    Hope you enjoy Chi town when you get here. Hopefully the weather will be better by then 🙂


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