I Want to Be a Modern Family Character

Who doesn’t love to laugh? At the end of a long day, when dinner is over, the kitchen is clean, and there is precious time to relax, a comedy show is the perfect dessert.


We watch these shows to be entertained, knowing full well that they’re not accurate portraits of everyday life for ordinary people. Four, five and even six plot lines are carefully crafted and neatly tidied up in 22 minutes. Everybody moves on to the next episode satisfied and happy.


Like I said, rarely a picture of real-life.


imageOne of my favorite shows is ABC’s Modern Family. I love Cam’s dramatic flair, Claire’s pragmatism, Alex and Hallie’s digs at each other’s polar opposite interests. And of course, Phil’s limitless optimism and innocent double entendre statements.


Much mayhem ensues with these colorful characters, but it’s how they handle their flaws that makes me sit up and pay close attention.


When an unflattering trait is pointed out, the “accused” character reacts with incredulity, defensiveness, anger, denial and sometimes an offensive counterattack. All while making us laugh, of course.


But eventually, when confronted with truth, the characters own their faults.




In one episode, Lily’s teacher reports that Lily doesn’t know how to share. Cam knows she learned this by watching Mitchell, who vehemently denies responsibility for her stinginess, until he remembers refusing to give Cam a bite of his meal, a corner of his pillow or use of his favorite pen.


In another episode, the family points out Claire’s difficulty accepting another person’s version of events when it differs from her own. She realizes they’re right after considering the time and energy required to track down a surveillance video from the grocery story, simply to prove that Phil backed up into her shopping cart, resulting in a produce aisle cleanup.


And in a Thanksgiving show, the Pritchetts are charged with being cynical because they refuse to believe, and are unwilling to replicate, Cam’s “punkin-chunkin” story. After joining in the fun, they realize they are the pessimists in the family.


In each scenario, there’s an a-ha moment of recognition. Of realization. Of humility.


Sometimes they even fess up before being found out! Like the time Claire confessed to wearing a duplicate wedding ring after taking off (and losing) the original to flirt her way out of a speeding ticket.


And here’s what I love the most. It’s what happens next.


The characters apologize and ask for forgiveness.


Again, remarkable.


This is where real-life and television often part ways.


The Pritchetts and Dunphys know to apologize. And they do. Apologizing is not always easy, but it is necessary for reconciliation and restoration of relationships.


Having a light shone on our shortcomings is difficult. Yet we are often oblivious to what is glaring to others.


But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.

Psalm 19:12


Once we hear something difficult, if there is even a small kernel of truth, our heart must stay open.


Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

Proverbs 13:10


Pride. So often it asserts itself at just this most inopportune time, doesn’t it?


But what’s beneath the pride? Vulnerability? Feelings of unworthiness? Guilt? Shame?


Pride is like a fortress wall erected to keep the difficult feelings inside. But it also locks reconciliation out.


There is wisdom in listening, no matter how challenging that may be. Of course we hope for gentle words that speak truth with honesty and compassion. But we have no control over the delivery. We can only control how we respond.


Putting energy into defensiveness or denial will prevent us from seeing what God may want to reveal. We must be attentive to the opportunity in the moment.


We must chip away at the wall with humility. Dismantle it with an apology when we are convicted by truth.


But wait. It’s only the commercial break. The episode isn’t done yet.


There’s something else the characters do well. They accept apologies and extend forgiveness with grace and love. Every time.


So there is work to be done on both sides of the wall.


Forgiveness is the sledgehammer that crumbles the weakened wall. But it’s easier said than done.


Who hasn’t been wounded by harsh words, inconsiderate actions, slights, outright betrayals, and much more?


Who hasn’t heard heartfelt apologies and promises to do better?


And who hasn’t had difficulty extending the forgiveness necessary to reconcile and move on?


Cam, Mitchell, Claire, Phil and all the other cast members are good at this. My husband is also a swift and generous forgiver. It’s an admirable trait I’m incredibly grateful for, and one of the many things I love about him.


But me? Not so much.


I’ve struggled to forgive slights big and small, and wonder how many of you have also. When pain is inflicted, healing sometimes takes time. It is tempting to withhold the forgiveness until we feel healed, but it through forgiving that we are healed. I’m learning.


Ultimately, no matter how we feel, forgiveness is a decision, and one we are called to make.


And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Matthew 6:12


But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:15


I want and need forgiveness for pain I have caused others. For the hurts I know about, and those I’m oblivious to.


I want grace and forgiveness because I yearn for reconciliation with the ones I love.


I want the opportunity to say, “It’s a wrap!” and to move on to the next episode.


So I work to give what I, in fact, want. I’m getting better.


It’s hard on either side of the wall. Hard to apologize, and hard to forgive. But eventually, we need to do both to preserve and protect the relationships we cherish.


So I tune in every week to laugh, and to watch forgiveness in action.


Forgiveness, with a side of shenanigans.


And who wouldn’t want to be a character in that kind of show?


Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts. I’d love to know I’m not alone and how others are able to move through conflict!

  • Patricia Newman
    April 18, 2016

    Lovely . I think you caught the essence of good family life …forgive, forgive and then forgive again..I believe we need to never forget the great relief we feel when someone forgives us generously…and then use that to forgive others.

    • Jo-Ann
      April 18, 2016

      Yes and thank you for so succinctly summarizing my point! And for reading and commenting. 🙂

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