Of Family Feuds

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Known for his kisses

Richard Dawson, the former host of Family Feud, died this past weekend. The show began in 1976 and I just realized that he originally stopped hosting the show in 1985, the year my husband and I were married. Dawson, donned in a three-piece suit and sideburns, was iconic for his witty British humor and kissing each one of his lady contestants. His legacy was and is his kissing and it seems to be what comes up in each one of his tributes and obituaries. These days someone would have screamed harassment and/or gender discrimination for being kissed on his show.

Dawson was also a guy who made life inside a Nazi prison camp seem funny as his original launch to fame in the United States was as a character on the old television sitcom Hogan’s Heroes.

Laughter is the best medicine

As the old saying goes, laughter is the best medicine. In fact it is well-known that laughter has tremendous health benefits. According to helpguide.org, “humor and laughter can strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish your pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress.”   

In my work with clients, I noticed that helping persons to discover the humorous side of a situation is a gateway to healing.  It is no wonder that we all really do enjoy laughing.  It is laughter and smiles that we tend to equate with happiness.

However the key is being able to take what we see as a serious situation and to find a humorous side to it. I am not talking about being disrespectful, crude, or nasty; it is a matter of looking at a situation realistically and being able to chuckle at our human folly.  Every one of us has events from our childhood that we could either cry or laugh about depending on the perspective. My family likes to joke about the time in anger I threw a roasted chicken carcass across the room on my 14th birthday. Or, my husband and I laugh remembering when my mother-in-law incorrectly publishing the surname of my stepfather as “Mr. DeFagg” instead of “Mr. DeFelippo” on my wedding announcement in her local newspaper. She then framed a photocopy of my face as it appeared in the article and put it on the piano. Some things can mortify us at first, but later become the substance of giggles to the point of tears and the loosening of a weak bladder.

Classic Hatfield and McCoys

Mr. Dawson’s Family Feud was a playful game. The show even hosted a week-long battle between the Hatfields and the McCoys as I have attached the YouTube video from 1979 to this post. Recently the History Channel ran a series on the Hatfields and McCoys.The stark reality of the violence that occurred is evident when viewing this program.

There have been some very serious feuds in history. Some even take on the tone of gang warfare. Perhaps there are even some serious feuds going on right now between and within families. Some of us feud within ourselves. There might even be a little bit of a Hatfield or a McCoy within each one of us. I do have to add a brief genealogical note here, that my husband’s family has a connection to the Hatfields. Upon further examination, however we discovered that the relation is actually through marriage of a distant cousin and not by blood. A relative pointed out that our Hatfields are not the same as the ones on the program and were actually too busy enjoying the beautiful countryside to come over the mountain to get involved in the fighting.  A relief actually, after seeing the violence that was portrayed on TV.

Out of curiosity I watched the History Channel three-part series of the Hatfield and McCoys. What strikes me as a counselor and a person of faith is how the fighting escalated. I had heard that the confrontation began as a result of a pig, which could be viewed in a humorous way. However, it doesn’t take long to see that there was a lot more meat to the matter. It is a story of sides wanting to get even. A story of how two sides sought out justice for their perception of being wronged by the other. It is a story of how the innocent are victimized. It is a story of loss and tragedy.  A feud always has two sides. So does forgiveness. We have to be willing to forgive and to be willing to accept that forgiveness.

A feud actually has Christian overtones.

One can’t help but see the consequences of the pitiful side of our human nature out of control.This all leads to saying that the story of a feud can actually be seen in the light of the Christian doctrines of redemption and atonement for sins. It is about giving and receiving forgiveness. It is about some blameless victim being sacrificed.  If we have trouble understanding why Jesus had to die for our sins and the significance of the sacrifice of the Mass, think of the consequences of a feud gone awry.  Where does it all end?

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