Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from the New International Version.
Families are complicated. There is no such thing as a perfect family…or an easy family. We all make mistakes that hurt or disappoint our family members, and we’ve all been hurt or disappointed by those we love.
Within our human makeup is a deep and basic need for healthy family relationships. God made us as relational beings. He didn’t create the first man and say, “Good enough. I am done.” No, He then created woman and gave human beings the ability to procreate. God created families. He wired us to have relationships and to depend on one another.
Family was designed to provide us with love, a feeling of belonging, a shared history, traditions, comfort, affection, quality time, feedback, learning, and a safety net. When our family fails to provide for these needs, we experience a sense of loss.
While every family has its problems—some minor, some major—what really matters is how we deal with these issues. Are we working to heal and resolve the conflicts, or are we allowing them to fester, divide, and explode, perhaps causing irreparable damage to our relationships?
We are either part of the problem or part of the solution. While doing nothing about a family issue may seem like the safest route, it often further contributes to the troubles. We have a choice to make: Do we want a family that is loving, supportive, and knows how to get along? Or do we want to continue along the path of hurt feelings, angry reactions, and severed communication? If we desire the first option, the good news is that we can help bring solutions and healing to our damaged families, regardless of the size of the problem.
Family relationships, like all relationships, come with challenges. There is no such thing as a family without issues because every human being is fallible. This means each one of us has the potential to create a problem in our family! And unresolved problems in families can lead to hurt, strained relationships, and division.
Often, we don’t even understand the reasons behind rifts and estrangements in our family. One party blames the other and vice versa.
We can identify certain behaviors as root causes of problematic relationships. I like to describe these behaviors as “hidden” because we often ignore, deny, or cover up our family issues. Some major hidden behaviors are (1) a failure to forgive or apologize, (2) criticism, (3) gossip, (4) deception, (5) a lack of inclusion, and (6) a failure to accept differences. Once we are able to pinpoint the specific problems that are causing disagreement and strife in our immediate and extended family, we can work to solve them and make our relationships better and stronger.
This does not mean we need to call out our loved ones about their hidden behaviors. The first step to righting wrongs in the family is to start with ourselves. None of us is without sin or error.
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:2–5)
It is easy to point the finger at others and tell them what they are doing wrong. Scripture tells us to look at our own behaviors, objectively assess our sins and mistakes, and then work to correct them. Once we identify the sin, we can turn it over to God and ask for His forgiveness and help in restoring our relationships.
You may feel that others are far more wrong than you are. You may be correct about that. However, God is the judge, and we need to let Him deal with others’ issues. Again, His Word tells us to look at ourselves and work on fixing our own sinful ways. Later in this devotional, we will see how to approach family members who have offended us or may be hurting others. But for now, we need to focus on ourselves.
We can’t control the behavior of others, but we can control our own responses. Whatever mistakes have already happened, make a decision to promote forgiveness and reconciliation. Partner with God and take action to become a family healer.
Today is the day you can begin to bring love and healing to your family members. Even if you are the only one working on solving the problems, you will be making a difference. Endeavoring to right your own wrongs can change the course of your family.
Good relationships require time and effort. If we truly desire to have a loving extended family, then we need to be solution-focused and willing to take on our mutual problems. 6 Hidden Behaviors That Destroy Families is designed to enable you to take the first steps. You can learn successful strategies for avoiding and correcting negative behaviors. Your relationships can become healthier, more loving, and supportive. Yes, it is a process, but it is one that will result in happier lives and relationships, because love brings joy, acceptance, and goodwill. We can all be better people when we have family members who support and encourage us.
One person making the effort to be the agent of change can positively impact generations to come. All it takes is one willing person—and that one person can be you.