Dealing with Discord in Your Extended Family

Family—can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. Living peacefully in a family without experiencing any drama, disagreement or discord is nearly impossible. Instead, just when you think things are moving along smoothly, an issue crops up with a family member that smacks you in the head like a bolt of lightning out of the blue, making you think, “Where in the world did that come from?”

You wonder, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Well, no family is perfect. Every family is made up of fallible, fragile, human beings who don’t always act right. According to scripture, we are all sinners. Every member of your family will at one time or another experience emotional swings, stress, insecurity or frustration as they navigate the peaks and valleys of life. These feelings can manifest themselves as anger, bitterness or insensitivity towards other members of the family. When this happens you may feel hurt. You may think you have been unjustly accused, misunderstood, or disrespected.

So, what are we to do when we have a disagreement with a family member?

  1. Pray. The only way we can hope to bring resolution to the situation is to handle it in a spirit of Christ-like love and humility. And the only way to do that is to pray for wisdom, guidance, and Holy Spirit power.
  2. Resist the urge to strike back. (This is so hard for some of us.) Just take the punches and turn the other cheek. If you’ve ever sent that nasty reply via text message or left that derogatory comment on a family member’s answering machine, then you know the feeling of regret that quickly comes when you wish you could take it back but can’t. Someone gave me some advice one time to write it all down in a letter, then tear it up! That was really good advice!
  3. Know who you are in Christ. Mean-spirited words only have power if you allow them to. You are not who they say you are—you are who He says you are. See those words for what they are: a feeble attempt to tear you down in order to make that person feel bigger.
  4. Expect your motives to sometimes be misunderstood or misread. Everyone doesn’t understand true sincerity or simple kindness (especially unbelievers). It doesn’t compute in today’s world. People are often jaded and assume you are being sarcastic or insincere—especially when communication is occurring via texting or email.
  5. Apologize even when you know it wasn’t your fault. “Really?”, you say, “That can’t be right.” Actually, it’s that “turn the other cheek” thing again. We are to follow the example of Christ in all things—especially relationships. Apologize. Then apologize again.
  6. Forgive the offending party even though they haven’t asked for forgiveness. Forgive them as if they have. Let it go.
  7. Try to see the offending family member through spiritual eyes. Ask yourself, “How does God see this person?” “What stresses or problems might this person be going through?” God loves this person with all their faults, quirkiness and bad attitude and we are called to love them, too. Pray for grace, to really see them and consider the issues they have that may make them act this way.
  8. Let things go—as water under the bridge. Resist the urge to go back and revisit things. It’s much better to leave the past in the past and to start fresh with that particular family member.

Sometimes things resolve over time on their own. Sometimes there is no resolution but the parties involved are able to go forward and put the past behind them. If you are dealing with a non-believer, they are coming from a very different mindset. The best you can do may be to show them a picture of the unconditional love of God with humility and grace and then leave the rest up to Him. I have messed up numerous times over the years when dealing with family situations and I know many of you have, as well. Hopefully, these ideas will help us deal more mercifully and wisely with our family members when conflicts arise. Be ready! Because just when you think your family dynamic is all sunshine and flowers, your phone dings and there appears a nasty, random accusation from your family member.  And so it begins…

“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled…” Hebrews 12:14-15

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity”             Psalm 133:1-3

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

About Heart of the Matter

I am a southern wife and mom who loves reading, music, studying the Bible, and playing a game of tennis now and then. I also enjoy spending time at the beach and have amassed quite a seashell collection. I love all things southern: sweet tea, magnolia trees, comfort food and entertaining. I live in awe of what my Savior has done for me and desire to share spiritual encouragement with others.
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