Open thoughts on a broken family : The Human Being Stuff



“After listening to your audio I was unsure how to respond, which is the reason for my delayed response. I see our situation different than you described, so I am not sure what to say or what counsel to give. I will keep praying for wisdom to respond correctly and for all our hearts to be ready for reconciliation.”

For the past twenty something years, I’ve been a part of a broken family, and in the last few years, the heights of tension and dissension have reached beyond comprehension. So, it is with little shock that most all of the podcasts and articles and movies I’ve listened to, read, and watched have been filtered through a lens of brokenness. And because there is no one to vent them to (outside my wife of course), I’ve begun to write them down.

I have no conclusions or eureka moments, just thoughts and questions. Maybe you do to, if you've experienced or are experiencing something similar. Maybe not. Either way, I hope you find these ramblings of thoughts and connections encouraging, even if it only means we are struggling and hoping and floundering together.

This is probably going to be at least a two-part series. I’m not sure yet. It depends on how therapeutic it is. But we’ll worry about that later.

For now, here’s the first posting. It’s entitled, “The Human Being Stuff”


After the 2016 elections, John Pavolvic lost contact with several of his friends. In an open letter to them all, he tried to explain why.

I know you may believe this disconnection is about politics, but I want you to know that this simply isn’t true. It’s nothing that small or inconsequential, or this space between us wouldn’t be necessary. This is about fundamental differences in the ways in which we view the world and believe other people should be treated. It’s not political stuff, it’s human being stuff — which is why finding compromise and seeing a way forward is so difficult.

I love that line, “It’s not political stuff, it’s human being stuff” because, although it’s completely vague, it’s also completely perfect. “The human being stuff.” Just perfect.

He continues,

I cannot have political debates with these people. Our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters.

Replace “political” with religion, and that’s where I’m at. But really, replace it with parenting, sexuality, or anything else that deals with the human being stuff and that’s where many families and friendships are at – divided and broken.

Like Pavlovitz, I find it difficult to carry on a conversation with anyone whose basic foundation of what it means to be human is completely different than my own. And when those people are called family, it gets even harder, and when family hardships and differences are constantly shielded by the “let’s pray about it” comments, it becomes nearly impossible.

Anyone who knows me, or my family, knows we are a splintered mess. We don’t talk, we judge before we speak, and we choose ourselves over others time and time again. 

Maybe you can relate?

From the outside, however, my family looks okay, sometimes even healthy, but behind the whitewashed exteriors of ourselves, we are rotting, dying, and full of crap. If we’re honest.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a tribute to the comedian George Carlin. In it, Louis CK shares some thoughts on what made Carlin so great and how his approach to comedy saved Louis’ career. While watching, I couldn’t help but wonder if his advice could also save Pavlovitz’s friendships and, possible, my family.

One night, in Louis CK’s early years, after yet another disastrous show, he found himself alone, in his car, wrestling with the reality that after fifteen years of diligent work, all he had to show for it was fifteen years of the same “shitty material,” and he was mournfully ready to give up. Until he heard George Carlin talking about his comedic process: at the end of every year, he threw all of his material away, and started over. Louis couldn’t believe it. It took him years to build up his material, how was he supposed to throw it all away?

But he did. And now, he is one of the most respected comedians of our time.

“When you’re done telling jokes about airplanes and dogs” Louis explains, “you throw those away,” forcing yourself to find new material and to “dig deeper.” Deeper into everyday life and deeper into what makes us, us. “You start talking about your feelings,” Louis continues, “and who you are. And then you do those jokes and when they’re gone, you gotta dig deeper and then you start thinking about your fears and your nightmares and doing jokes about that.”

Fears and nightmares and the things that we try so hard to hide and disguise, even though they are the raw and real part of humanity, the human being stuff that every family has to deal with because it too is part of life, part of us, and part of growing and living and loving together.

But my family doesn’t go there. Maybe you can relate?

Instead, we talk about airplanes and dogs and prayer. We talk about forgiveness and love and what God would have us do in our lives and how to serve and read and worship His holy name, and when things get a little messy, a little hard and raw and real, we again talk about prayer, never our fears and nightmares. Never our sins and guilts and mistakes for those are better left locked behind closed doors so no one can see them, just hear them, as they scream and yell and cry in the darkness. “Lord reveal us” we pray, backs pressing against the door, legs straining against the pounding and thrashing, “give wisdom on what to do and how to reconcile” we pray, and the pounding and screaming lurches through the walls, down the halls, and through bed covers that are tightly held over little heads and jammed into little ears.

Then, when prayers continually go unanswered, when the family remains broken and yet another holiday passes us by, we reach for pen and paper, or sometimes a blog, and write the same shitty material we’ve been rehearsing for the past fifteen years.

So what now?

Where do we go from here?

How does prayer and prayer alone reconcile? Does it bend the hearts of the wicked to see the right and true path and the error of their ways?

If so, which one of us is the wicked and which is the righteous?

More importantly, how do we deal with all of the human being stuff? Because, after fifteen years of the same rhetorical sweeping, it no longer fits under the prayer rug.