In a culture that heavily projects social ideals and identities, our family can be influential in the development of our dreams and values.
Yet, for some, family signifies a sensitive topic. With an array of personalities at play, friction can inevitably create short-term or long-lasting conflict. Everything from the way we make decisions the way we view our reflection in the mirror can feel the effects of our wounded family history. With the holidays on the horizon, those with family conflict can dread the potential of extended time with family.
While easier to dwell on the pain, here are things for us to remember in the moments we feel defeated by family conflict:
Family dysfunctions do not define the future.
The negative history of our family can haunt our attempts at normalcy. Events that we have seen others endure, such as an unexpected affair or divorce, can bring fear and self-doubt into our own relationships.
However, we must remember that family dysfunctions teach us painful lessons, but do not confine us to their framework. From friendship to marriage, we have self-determination to not follow the same path. Challenges give each of our stories contexts, but they do not speak for us indefinitely.
Brokenness cannot be fixed overnight.
Abolitionist and writer Fredrick Douglass once said, “It is easier to build strong children than it is to heal a broken man.” Family conflict exists, at times, as a result of harboring bitterness and offenses (sometimes in silence) for years. Just like physical injuries, people need time to process the depth of their challenge and pain. Talking this out with a loving and strong community can definitely help alleviate some pressure, and a great therapist can help you if you’re feeling broken!
A compassionate heart paves the way for healing.
It is easier to stay angry with our loved ones at times then to go through the pain of letting go. But not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Holding on to pain from family conflict can be toxic in our lives. Resentment can bubble up into positive relationships causing us to lash out or react harshly unprovoked.
During any rough season, grace produces compassion that helps us see past our own pain. When we stop labeling someone as “the person who hurt us” and start caring for them as another human being, we lead the way towards amicability. Empathy can bridge the gap and create commonality in the face of disappointment.
An apology may never be given (and it’s important to find peace in this).
Once we disentangle ourselves from conflict and begin letting it go, clarity can help us focus on the bigger picture. It’s normal for our heart to long for a sincere apology from the ones who have hurt us; but unfortunately, the depth of someone else’s pain sometimes prevents them from addressing the pain they have caused others.
Instead of waiting for an apology, compassion can help us let things go. The reality that tends to be forgotten is that everyone has a story — yes, even those who have betrayed our trust. Being human comes with complexities we will never fully understand; however, these complexities tether us together.
We all crave acceptance as much as we crave forgiveness from one another. The more we embrace empathy and mutual understanding, the more we allow reconciliation to take its course. Healing may never look like what we expected it to, but the process is worth our time and our effort.
Ask yourself, what are my barriers to forgiving or letting go? Then ask, is that worth holding on to toxic pain?