Family. Ah, sweet family. For some reason a Charles Dickens quote comes to mind…
Don’t pretend your family is continually harmonious and never feels like a train wreck. The way I see it families consist of people, and people do not get along all the time. Let me put it another way…
Your brother stole something from you, your parents won’t stop bugging, your kids think you have more money than you really do, your spouse doesn’t communicate—I could make a list to the moon and back of family issues. We all know because 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 family misunderstandings. In my experience, these four actions have helped along the way.
Close your eyes and take a deep breath. While you do that, remember what it says in the Bible from the book of James. “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Perfect advice if you ask me.
If your ears are open and your mouth is closed (it’s what we try and teach our kids), it’s impossible to say something you will regret! Listen to your family member, whether they are 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. You will be surprised how smoothly an argument can go, if you simply take a breath.
In the little book of Philippians Paul, the guy who wrote it, says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). This includes our family issues. For example 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.
I’m sure we have all said something we regretted. This is unavoidable simply 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? Check out what the Bible says about watching our mouths. “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.”
So far we have had… Take a breath, put others’ needs before your own, and then speak in kindness.
I can’t think of anything worse then a prolonged issue. Good or bad, we like resolution. We have a hunger for an outcome. It certainly isn’t easy trying to rearrange your schedule or habits just to avoid “them.” Paul says “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26).
This isn’t just 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.
There you go, next time you have a family drama I challenge you to do these four steps and see how you go.
-Simon Hutton, Chaplain