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What we control, influence

In an era marked by increasing social isolation and technological dependence, families face unprecedented challenges. As Forbes magazine reports (‘Gen-Z, The Loneliness Epidemic And The Unifying Power Of Brands’), loneliness has become a growing epidemic in developed countries, with young people aged 16 to 24 feeling lonelier than any other age group.

As we approach the July/August vacation, we can look to building our family’s resilience. Consider the concept of “circles of control,” which when viewed through a Catholic lens, offers a powerful framework for regaining a sense of agency, hope, and spiritual growth, particularly within the family unit.

This approach involves categorising aspects of life into three concentric circles: things we can control, things we can influence, and things beyond our control. This aligns well with the idea of stewardship and trust in Divine Providence. We are called to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us, while also recognising that ultimately, God is in control of all things.

Within the family unit, members have direct control over their reactions to challenges, how they communicate with each other, their daily routines and habits, and personal skill development. In Catholic teaching, the family is often referred to as the “domestic Church,” emphasising its role as the primary place where faith is nurtured and lived out.

By consciously choosing how to react to challenges, family members can create a supportive atmosphere where problems are approached with a solution-oriented mindset rooted in faith. This shift in perspective can significantly impact the overall mood and resilience of the household, allowing family members to see difficulties as opportunities for spiritual growth and to practise virtues such as patience, fortitude, and charity.

Communication, another crucial aspect within the circle of control, can be enhanced by incorporating Catholic values of love, respect, and forgiveness. Families can strengthen their relationships by practising intentional, empathetic communication, inspired by Christ’s example of compassionate listening and speaking truth in love.

Establishing and maintaining daily routines and habits is another powerful tool within a family’s control. In the Catholic tradition, this could involve incorporating regular prayer times, such as morning offerings, grace before meals, or evening prayers. Participating in Mass together provides a spiritual anchor and connects the family to the broader Church community.

The second circle—things we can influence—extends the family’s impact beyond the home. This includes community involvement, children’s education, and local support networks. From a Catholic perspective, this sphere of influence is an opportunity to live out the call to be “salt and light” in the world.

Engaging in parish activities or local initiatives allows families to contribute to positive change in their immediate environment, living out the Catholic social teaching principle of subsidiarity. This not only provides a sense of purpose but also helps build a supportive community network that can be invaluable during challenging times.

Acknowledging the outer circle—things beyond control—is equally important in this framework and aligns with the Catholic virtue of trust in Divine Providence. This recognition helps in reducing stress over uncontrollable factors, redirecting energy towards productive actions, and cultivating acceptance and adaptability. Instead of fretting over global economic trends or political decisions beyond their reach, families can focus on how to adapt and thrive within their current circumstances, trusting in God’s plan and guidance.

This mindset shift empowers families to focus on solutions rather than problems, echoing the Catholic call to be co-creators with God in bringing about positive change. When faced with a challenge, the question becomes, “What can we do about this, with God’s help?” rather than “Why is this happening to us?”