"Oikogeneia" is a Greek word meaning "family."
There are two definitions that I find fitting for the topic I am currently writing about. For a long time, I believed that family was solely tied to blood relations, religion, school, and the like. However, it goes much deeper than that.
Family can be defined as the connection between individuals who share a kinship with each other.
Family can also be seen as a group of people who share common beliefs or engage in common activities.
These definitions resonated with me, revealing that family isn't solely about physical proximity, shared living arrangements, attending the same educational institutions, or worshipping at the same place. It transcends those aspects. Family constitutes a bond, a connection between people who hold similar values and work toward shared objectives. I use the term "common" because while their values and goals might not be identical, there exists a shared ground among them. This commonality is particularly evident in gangs.
Research in the fields of criminology and sociology has delved into the relationship between gangs and family dynamics. Gangs often offer a sense of belonging that might be absent elsewhere. The book "Gang Leader for a Day" by Sudhir Venkatesh offers insights into the relationships and interactions within a Chicago gang, highlighting how gang members frequently extend emotional and material support to one another.
Studies have indicated that individuals from dysfunctional or fractured families might be more susceptible to joining gangs as a means of finding belonging and identity. Research by Jody Miller, exemplified in her work "Getting Played: African American Girls, Urban Inequality, and Gendered Violence," explores how family circumstances can shape girls' involvement in gangs.
Certain studies propose that gangs provide social support and a sense of community for their members. These bonds often serve as substitutes for the familial support some individuals lack. Malcolm Klein's research, particularly his book "The American Street Gang: Its Nature, Prevalence, and Control," delves into the concept of gangs as "pseudo-families." He explores how the social bonds within gangs influence recruitment and retention.
While gangs might provide a form of support to their members, it's imperative to underscore the adverse consequences tied to gang involvement, including criminal activities, violence, and harm to communities.
The research on gang families sheds light on the reasons individuals might distance themselves from their biological families, schools, religions, or other groups they belong to. As the Bible says, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another."
Hence, a new definition of family emerges: it comprises an assembly of imperfect individuals united by shared goals and values, offering unconditional love to one another. Love stands as the primary criterion for any family. During challenging times, who remains steadfast beside you? Who holds your hand, even in the face of the gravest mistakes?
In moments of vulnerability and loneliness, the presence of family becomes essential. When you yearn for someone to talk to and find solace in, family steps in. Although it might be easy to dismiss such moments, a person's constant care and concern often lead to unexpected bonds, sometimes even with the wrong individuals. Family extends its care, even when you are reprimanded. There will always be people who stand by you and refuse to let you tread the path alone.
During periods of despair, family acts as a shield, lifting you up. They don't offer support from a distance; they don't necessarily have to bear the consequences of your actions alongside you but tey stand by you nevertheles. Any relationship (family) that fails to aid your personal growth, requiring you to become better on your own and face tumultuous times alone, does not meet the standards of family. The standard for family is God's love – an unwavering, unconditional love.
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