Real Help for Real Living: The Godfather came to Charlotte

by Rev. Tony Marciano

I grew up outside of New York City on the Jersey side. The town I grew up in was 1-mile square and one-third cemetery (our claim to fame). One half of my graduating class was Italian. Those of us who were Italian bragged about whether or not our Italian heritage was pure, i.e. whether our grandparents were from one village or if they were from different villages in Italy.

A few miles away was Newark, N.J. There was a restaurant called Don’s 21. It wasn’t named that because the owner’s name was Donald.

Remember the Godfather movie – Marlon Brando and Al Pacino were called Don Corleone. Rumors circulated that the “Dons” of Newark regularly met there. I remember when the place burned down. Gee, I wonder what happened?

There is a moment in the Godfather movie where Michael Corleone says, “Call a meeting of the families.” I laugh when they gather because the last names I heard mentioned in the movie remind me of so many of the last names of my high school classmates.

Borrowing Michael Corleone’s line from the movie, this past Thanksgiving I said to one of my sisters, “Call a meeting of the family.” Over the last 10 years, my two sisters followed me to Charlotte. Just like every family, we have our own level of conflict. I came to a crossroads in our relationship – would I continue to be nice and polite or would I confront the issues that prevented us from being authentic with one another? I chose the latter.

We met at a neutral place. We talked about our expectations and frustrations with each other. Never attacking the other person, we chose to identify and define the problem, as well as the 800 pound gorilla in our relationship. Then, we outlined what we needed to do to have an authentic relationship with each other.

There is a scripture verse that challenges us to keep short accounts with one another. Unfortunately, to do that involves confronting the issues that hijack our relationships. It’s never easy. Yet it moves us from pseudo relationships to authentic ones.

If the truth will set us free, why are we so scared of the truth? Why are we so scared of confronting the conflict in our significant relationships? I think it’s that we want the approval of that other person more than the opportunity to have an authentic relationship with them.

Dr.’s Les and Leslie Parrot explain that marriage (I think all relationships) go through four stages: Pseudo relationships; conflict; letting go; and authentic relationship.

Many relationships remain at the pseudo relationship stage in order to avoid conflict. If you want a deeper relationship, you will go through conflict (stage 2) followed by letting go. This third stage invites us to stop trying to fix the other person. We accept them for who they are rather than trying to make them into who we want them to be. It is only as we go through these three stages that we move to level 4 – authentic relationships.

Where will you be a year from now with those significant relationships that today you find yourself walking on egg shells around? Yes, it’s scary to confront the truth. I’d like to tell you that I and my two sisters walked out of that meeting holding hands, singing “Kum ba Yah” and hugging each other. We didn’t. Instead we reaffirmed that we loved each other “unconditionally.”

Rev. Tony Marciano is executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission and a regular South Charlotte Weekly columnist. He is available to speak to your group. Call 704-334-4635, ext. 213, to schedule him.

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