6 Tips for Living with the Donald Trump in Your Family

6 Tips for Living with the Donald Trump in Your Family August 11, 2016

Donald Trump can’t stop putting his foot in his mouth. He recently stoked fear among his audience by claiming that if elected, Hillary Clinton will attempt to eradicate gun rights in the United States. He claimed, “Hillary Clinton wants to abolish – essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

It’s another not-so-veiled statement that promotes violence against a political opponent. Trump stated that if Clinton becomes president, she will pick judges who would abolish the Second Amendment and there’s nothing anyone can do about it, except for “Second Amendment people.”

Trump supporters have attempted to excuse his statement about Clinton by claiming it was a joke. Like, “Hahaha! Kill a sitting president people! Isn’t that funny! Bwahahaha!” Others say that Trump wasn’t calling for someone to assassinate Clinton; he was just trying to galvanize the “Second Amendment people” to vote for him. But that’s not what Trump said. He said that if Clinton actually becomes president and “gets to pick her judges” then the Second Amendment people could do something. What would that something be? Trump leaves that question open for interpretation, but his suggestion to assassinate a potential sitting president is an obvious interpretation of his statement.

Trump’s campaign is based on stoking fears and lies. Clinton doesn’t want to take guns away from law abiding citizens. Our guns are safe. Clinton simply wants to improve and enhance background checks and “enforce existing laws more rigorously.” A recent Pew Research Poll shows that 85% of Americans actually agree with Clinton when it comes to these measures – “most people in the US support background checks, bans on assault-style weapons, bans on high capacity ammunition clips, bans on online sales of ammunition, and a federal database to track gun sales.

Most of us will never have to deal directly with the hate that spews from Donald Trump’s mouth, but most of us have a Donald Trump-like person in our family. Someone who says nasty things about other family members and who makes racist complaints about “the Mexicans” or “the Blacks” or “the Islamists” moving into the neighborhood. I have a “Donald Trump” in my family. I’ve made some mistakes, as you will see. And I’m still learning how to deal with our relationship, but here are some tips I’ve learned along the way have been helpful.

  1. It’s not about you. It’s about them. Whenever this person says something mean to me, I constantly remind myself that it isn’t about me. It’s about the other person. It’s about their issues, not mine. The sad truth is that this person has a weak sense of self. Their identity is based on being oppositional. People like this primarily know who they are by knowing who they are against. They are good because they know that there is some evil out there that they have to target. In order to feel good about themselves, they have to scapegoat another person or group. Try not to take this individual personally, because it’s not about you or anyone else. It’s about their insecurities.
  2. Confront if you must, but they are blind to their scapegoats. This is so important. I once confronted this person in my family after a very nasty statement was made about one of my siblings. I intentionally remained calm, reasonable, and matter of fact, but it didn’t help. Like Donald Trump never apologizes, but makes all kinds of excuses, this person justified their statement behind the banner of “Truth.” I remember it clearly, “I was only speaking the Truth.” At this point in the confrontation, there’s little that can be done. These people are very “reasonable.” They can rationalize any kind of statement or behavior because they believe so thoroughly in their own goodness, which blinds them to their scapegoats. They are supremely rational and believe so thoroughly in their own goodness, so confrontation may not work.
  3. Expect it. I used to get so upset whenever this person said something crazy. In true Donald Trump fashion, this person knows how to make veiled digs that can be interpreted in multiple ways. I used to say things like, “Can you believe that they said that?!?” And then I’d talk with a family member for 30 minutes about how awful this person is. After a few months, I stopped being surprised. In fact, I can believe this person said that. I expect it, which eases the sting.
  4. Try not to be offended. This is hard, but so important. Humans are super-relational creatures, in ways that we often don’t recognize. For instance, mimetic theory teaches us that we imitate those around us. We imitate not simply their actions, but more importantly their attitudes and demeanor. This leads us to act just like the person who offends us – by being offensive toward them. Richard Rohr states it nicely in his book Falling Upward, “The offended ones feel the need to offend back those who they think have offended them, creating defensiveness on the part of the presumed offenders, which often becomes a new offensive – ad infinitum.” Which leads us to number 5…
  5. It is about you. And it’s about them. So forgive. Okay, so on one level, this isn’t about you at all (see number 1.), but on another level, it is about you. It’s about how you are going to respond. Are you going imitate the offensive behavior, or are you going to find an alternative way to respond? This is about changing the rules of the relationship. I do not have the power to change the “Donald Trump” in my family, but I do have the power to change my attitude and behavior. And if I do that, then the relationship changes. For example, this person defines their sense of goodness by labeling others as evil. It infuriates me. But whenever I was around this person, I began to do the same thing. I labeled this family member as evil, which gave me a false sense of superiority. I was mirroring the very thing that I hated in this person. That’s the paradox of creating an identity based on opposition to another – our mutual opposition means we are run by the same scapegoating mechanism. We become mirror images. When that happens, there’s at least a little bit of Donald Trump in all of us. If we can recognize and forgive the Donald Trump inside of us, then maybe we can start to forgive the Donald Trump inside of them.
  6. Do you remember that Dorothy Day quote? So, I find myself creating a sense of being good in opposition to this person frequently, so, often reluctantly, I remind myself of Dorothy Day, who once quipped that, “Your love for God is only as great as the love you have for the person you love the least.” The truth of that quote is measured by how much it stings. Ouch. But that’s what the Donald Trumps of the world need. In my experience, reasoning doesn’t get through to them. Neither does righteous indignation. The only thing that gets through is to gain their trust through acts of love.

So there you have it. My 6 tips for living with a Donald Trump in your family. What tips would you add? I’d love to know!

Image: Copyright: vadimgozhda / 123RF Stock Photo

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