Friction in families is inevitable. Some families have more friction than others. Even a family who seldom has friction still experiences times when disagreements happen and friction occurs. Every family has times when discord threatens to divide.
So what’a a person – or a family – to do when the holidays threaten to become times of strife instead of peace and joy?
There are no easy answers, and each situation is different because families are different. Each family has its own story of conflict and pain, and there is no easy fix or one-size-fits-all band-aid that can be applied. There’s no vaccine for family friction, and no miracle cure.
Friction is not fiction
There are, however, some things we can do to help usher in a season of goodwill and cheer. If we’re serious about doing what we can to alleviate family friction, here are ideas to consider.
- realize tension and conflict are real. Don’t sweep it under the rug or “hope it will be better this time”, because it probably won’t be- if life continues in same ole, same ole.
- recognize underlying problems
- unhealed hurts – perhaps imagined or real
- harboring a grudge and refusing to relinquish
- a pouting member who gets her way or makes others miserable if she doesn’t
- persons (one or a bunch) who won’t cooperate when a decision should be made
- the black sheep – either by choices he has made or by treatment of others in the family
- refuse to add to the discord. There are many ways to back out of participation. Here are a few to consider.
- don’t add to a grudge someone is holding by fanning the flame. Instead, put a lid on that can of gasoline that will cause explosions. Giving sympathy when someone refuses to recognize his own part in the problem does nothing but thicken the tension.
- don’t get caught up in discussions or arguments with other members of the family about the “culprits” unless your intent is to bring healing instead of more division. You’ll know whether you should participate in discussions if you’re really sincere about enveloping harmony. It will also show in the outcome of those discussions.
- be a leader on an untraveled path. Stand firm when it comes to fairness and negating favoritism. Be willing to become unpopular, because standing firm will mean others might need to change their attitudes and/or actions, and that might not happen.
- be fair and congenial about involving others, but don’t let a few sore apples hinder the fun the rest of the family can have together. Your event is not about them; it’s about family.
- go the extra mile by including and showing interest in the person who feels like the black sheep. Kindness never hurt anybody, and it can be the first application of medicine necessary for healing to begin.
- be careful about assuming you know the whole story in a family friction (and repeating it) when you’ve only listened to one side of the friction. There is always more than one side. Until you’ve listened to both stories, you’re dumb and ignorant – and an integral part of the problem.
The antidote for family friction
In addition to practical advice, there are words from scripture that can help light the way for reconciliation of family friction. If you are a true believer, you know what it means to go to scripture to find direction. We can’t pick and choose; we must follow all of scripture if we want to be authentic.
This is when it gets hard – dealing with family friction. It’s easier to stay in my corner and my lane and expect others to bend toward me, especially when they are the ones who have hurt me.
Yet this holy Word, by which I am called to live, beckons me to come to the table and the cross - and find a way to rescue and redeem what is broken, bruised, fractured, and ugly. Click To TweetThis holy Word, by which I am called to live, beckons me to come to the table and the cross – and find a way to rescue and redeem what is broken, bruised, fractured, and ugly. Instead of being full of myself and wanting to avoid the friction, I have to move forward and beyond. It’s hard – and that’s why we often fail.
Many times, it’s not that we don’t know what we ought to do. We just don’t want to do the work necessary. Doing the right thing can alienate us from others who want to continue in the conflict. For many people, sadly, blood is thicker than truth. Sometimes standing for truth will cause us to become the outcast. For certain, standing for truth doesn’t guarantee everyone will become friends, but if we’re serious about Kingdom living, we have no choice.
Consider these directions given to believers.
Romans 12:18: If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.
Philippians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Ephesians 4:32: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, outcry and slander, along with every form of malice. Be ye kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.
Following these scriptures will change you – even if the conflict with others continues. These scriptures (and many others) provide direction and comfort for us. Even when we have to set boundaries because of emotional or physical abuse of someone in the family, following these scriptures guards our hearts and keeps us from becoming vindictive.
The message from the angels to the lowly, smelly shepherds in that field over 2000 years ago is a message that is pertinent to us today. In our own ugly, messy, smelly world, He continues to change us and give us hope for tomorrow with these words: Peace on earth; Good will toward men.