Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In some families there are, unfortunately, a lot of conflicts. Siblings don’t talk to each other and this has never been properly dealt with. It’s very sad to see friction like this affect a loving family—and yet I have a feeling it’s more common than we realise.
Families do come into a collision over opinions and issues, and don’t always get on. Everyone has family conflict. Occasional tension or arguments are a normal part of family life, and hopefully things calm down and people learn to get on with each other. If you can’t reach a compromise, you might have to ‘agree to disagree’. Remember that you can always have your own opinions, based on your personal experience, beliefs and values, and you don’t always have to agree with your family. Sadly there are some people who’ve not spoken to families members in years.
Former American president Ronald Reagan used to say, “Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” And that’s a good definition—if it can be achieved. I think it’s fair to say that most people avoid conflict, and when it occurs, it can sour our relationships, attitude, and overall wellbeing.
Emotional connections contribute to conflict
The reason that family conflict is so common is due to the emotional connections we have with our family members. We love our families, and will do anything for them. Although we love them, we do not always like them. An angry response can trigger an argument which can easily get out of hand. One word leads to another. And the trouble lies with our feelings. Feelings are not facts. Feelings change from day to day depending on what’s going on around us.
If you tend to enter a hostile situation, frustrated and prepared for battle, take a breath, add some logic to your emotion and think about how you can do something differently. Decide that this time, you will smile through it and make the best of the challenge. Let go of the resentments. Decrease the expectations. You’ll be surprised how much less emotionally reactive you become.
The Bible is quite clear on the matter of personal relationships: Romans 12:18 (NASB) says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” and that includes your family members. Broken relationships can be healed when we invite God into the problem and seek his guidance. He knows what is best and how to resolve any situation. A family feud can start out easily—and, unless handled properly, it can blow up into an embarrassing stalemate that drags others into the situation, and people take sides, making it even worse.
Some of us like to win at all cost—no matter what. And that can be dangerous. If you believe you are never wrong, you have nowhere to move. You can lock yourself into a corner and that other family member is wrong—because I’m always right. Be careful. But it doesn’t mean you shut down altogether and say nothing. That only creates a lingering resentment that can last a long time. A far more effective way is to learn what the Biblical principles are for getting on with others.
Wisdom is the key to defuse conflict
Like the instruction from James in his epistle: “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (James 3:13 – NASB). There is the key word: wisdom. Living in a family requires a lot of wisdom and understanding if you’re going to avoid fractures and fights that upset everyone. In most life situations, we have to be wise to avoid unnecessary conflicts and harsh words.
James is really saying that wisdom is more than words. It’s to do with what’s in the heart—a commitment and lifestyle of goodness and respect towards others. The Greek phrase for ‘good behavior’ is translated beautiful conduct. Wow! What an impressive way to think. Someone who radiates goodness and sincerity because of their faith in a loving God. Who goes about his or her daily life in God’s presence, rather than relying on how they feel at that moment—no hatred, chaos, insults. James says in 3:16 (NASB), “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing”.
If it is within your power, make peace with all people. (Romans 12:18 – The Voice)
If you have a look at this epistle you’ll see how James explains wisdom in a full way to do with peace, gentleness, being reasonable, merciful, unwavering, full of good fruits, and without hypocrisy. Many of us waste that energy on something foolish, tearing our loved one down by shouting and screaming at them.
Instead, can you try and be open-hearted and generous in your family life? If so, you stand a better chance of preventing ‘World War III’ to blow up and hurting your relationships with people you do love, but sometimes don’t like. I’m not saying you have to agree with everyone in your family. But think first—fractures in a good family will only get worse with hatred and anger. No insults.
When you belong to Jesus, he will give you supernatural grace and power as you seek to solve conflicts well. It is worth it in the long run. There will be family problems—but they can be solved the right way when Jesus is part of your life. May God help you.