Family. Ah, sweet family.
Suddenly, Charles Dickens’ famous quote, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” comes to mind. Don’t pretend your family is continually harmonious and never feels like a train wreck. Families consist of people, and people fight.
Your brother stole from you, your parents won’t stop coming around, your kids think you have more money than you really do, your spouse doesn’t communicate—I could make a list a million miles long of family issues. We all know we have them, but do we all know how to handle them?
I have had my fair share of family issues, from sibling rivalries to in-law misunderstandings. In my experience, these four actions have helped along the way.
Literally close your eyes and take a deep breath. While you do, remember James 1:19: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
If your ears are open and your mouth is closed, it’s impossible to say something you will regret! Listen to your family member, young or old, like you’d want Jesus to listen to you. It's OK to step away for a few minutes to gather yourself and pray for guidance. In fact, Romans 8:26 tells us “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” If you simply take a breath, you will be surprised how smoothly an argument can go.
Philippians 2:3 says to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” This includes any and all family issues. For example, your mother-in-law is too clingy with your husband. Instead of telling her whose man he is, take a breath and put her needs above your own. Is she lonely? Does she need someone to talk to?
Or maybe your brother can’t stop asking you for money. Instead of telling him to grow up and get a job, consider how he feels. Hopeless? Unsuccessful? Useless? If we simply change our perspective, our end goal transforms completely.
If we simply change our perspective, our end goal transforms completely.
I’m sure we have all said something we regretted. That is inevitable because we are human and born sinners. I’m also sure we have had hurtful things said to us.
Has a hurtful, damaging phrase ever made you feel better about yourself? Do you actually want to resolve an argument while cruel conversation is ensuing? Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Take a breath, put others’ needs before your own, and then speak in kindness.
There is nothing worse then a prolonged issue. Good or bad, we like resolution. We have a hunger for outcome. It certainly isn’t easy trying to rearrange your schedule or habits just to avoid “them.” Paul says it best in the second half of Ephesians 4:26: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
This isn’t advice; it’s instruction. Resolve your issues before you go to bed. This includes a marital dispute, parental indifference, sibling spats, child conundrums, and friend falling-outs. Once you’ve put one issue behind you, the next one won’t be so intimidating.
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