Monday, April 7, 2014

Can't We All Just Get Along?

"My parents got divorced when I was eight so it's just me, my mom, and my sister.  How do I deal with their fighting?  I just hate it when they fight.  How do I tell them to stop without getting them to get mad at me?  Please don't mention my name on anything."

I am sorry that your family is struggling.  I will answer gladly answer your questions and I would also like to encourage you ... maybe even give you some insight and ideas.

Let's break this down.

"It's just me and my sister."
You have two women, besides yourself, living in the same home ... I am going to assume that you are the youngest [though it doesn't really matter].  That situation kind of brings its own difficulties (though all do).  The healthiest of families have issues with teenage development.  When teens were little, their parents were perfect and basically super heroes.  But by the teen years, all they often can see are their faults.  That point of view causes the teens to be very challenging towards their parents' authority ... "who are you to tell me what to do!?" is an often question asked and, even more, thought.  In a balanced home, that behavior is usually better kept at bay for many reasons ... two being that

* one parent completes the other [keeping that parent from seeming to be just another teen in the house looking to find his or her way] and

* one parent can step in for another when a child gets out of line.

You are not in that situation so things can get weighted and heavy fast.  I know your situation hurts you but there can be at least some comfort in knowing that the conflict between your mother and sister is not just happening to you.  We can often feel like we are the only ones going through situations which can further isolate us ... but that is not true.  There are very few things, whether good or bad, that happen to people that are unique to only those people.

So what can be done about that?  Not too much .. but a lot can be done about your situation.  I am curious if you guys are involved with a healthy church that ministers to families like yours.  If not, consider a change.  We often choose a church family based upon its ease or hype ... meaning it's either the closest or the coolest.  But I would suggest finding one that will do more than Sunday and Wednesday services.  I'm talking about churches that have specific ministry to single parent homes and fatherless children.  We frequently and subconsciously find traits attractive in others that resemble that of the opposite parent.  That is supposed to be healthy, but in situations like yours, I suggest extreme caution because the tendency is choosing a man that will run when the getting gets hard.  Your family needs help ... they need balance.  It's not happening on its own so it may be time to look for external help.  If your church has ministries that are designed with your family's need in mind, then it's time to open up the need or amplify their understanding of it.  If not, you are part of God's kingdom, His church.  We are never just part of a piece of it.   Take some time interviewing pastors and choose the one your family feels best.

"How do I deal with their fighting?"
This can vary depending on your relationship with both of them and the fierceness of the fight.  I usually suggest that any non-warring member back out quietly and get their distance from the fighting of their loved ones.  It often generates in them a curiosity of why you keep leaving that can eventually even stop their fight to check on you ... when they ask why you keep leaving you have an open door to tactfully explain how you can't stand the two people you love most in the world fight.

In any family that is not physically abusive, I always suggest starting conversations (we call it opening a dialogue) ...

  • with God - we have no right to expect any change, intervention, miracles, etc by God if we refuse to pray.  Simply put, if are not willing to pray about it, then it is not as important as we make it seem.  Remember this though, God doesn't always positively answer the requests to have changes made in others (because He deals with each of us on our own and there may be things that He is working them through) but He always responds positively to the requests we make of Him to be changed within ourselves.
  • with the family members fighting - they need to know tactfully that their fighting is hurting you and how it is negatively affecting your home.  Try to talk to them together, not separate bc that can seem as if you are being divisive. 
  • with a spiritual leader - a pastor or some trusted minister that can help you and your family without making it look like you are ratting out the household.  People know they have problems, when I approach someone knowing there is a problem, they almost always tell me without ever knowing their child did previously.  An honest minister will not roll over on you.  I would rather let the person walk away lying than get his or her child in trouble UNLESS it was a matter of urgency.
  • with a counselor - you need to be coached and prepared.   This will hopefully be the pastor, but sometimes that is not an option
"I just hate it when they fight."
That is certainly understandable.  I am sorry for your pain.  I want you to know that Jesus is with you ... He knows.  Turn to Him, let Him be your comfort.  He is a very present source of help and strength to those in need.  It only bothers you because you have a good heart.  Pay close attention to yourself during this time, don't harden.  You may be in the workings of becoming a wonderful family counselor. The Bible encourages us to comfort others with the comfort we have received.  Stay close to God, let Him comfort you.  This may never stop, but God can help you go through it without being destroyed by it.  Know that God mourns with you for your family.  He created your mom and sister and wants the best, His best for them.  Keep placing your concern and care for them in His hands, even if you have to do it every 3 seconds.  Often times, the greatest change God makes that we see in others is the change He has actually made within ourselves.

Please remember these two things:
  1. It's not your fault - their choice for conflict is their choice.
  2. You are not responsible to fix it - but we have no right to expect God to intervene if we refuse to pray seriously about it.
"How do I tell them to stop without getting them mad at me?"

I would advise you to pray for them often, and listen within yourselves for ideas.   Pray for their well being, not just to stop fighting.  They are fighting because most likely there is something deeper going on in both of them that is leading to conflict with each other.  God's most powerful healing occurs in the darkest, most filthy corners of the human heart.  Trust Him with your's and your family's.

I do have some ideas as well but in them always remember that you have the best chance of success if you remain tactful and you recognize when to back down.  If you lose your tact (ability to be respectful and polite) you will not be heard, in fact you will just make it worse.  If you don't recognize when to chill out, you will end up getting into the line of fire becoming a target of aggression that was not intended for you.  Keep those two and you should be on good ground.  Here are some ideas:
  • Set a family meeting - make a nice dinner, treat and pamper them both, and gently tell them why you've done this.
  • Write them both a letter - explain your love for them both and how their actions are hurting you ... don't make it too lengthy ... keep it simple and straightforward. 
If your relationship is healthy and they are at each other - it may be time to jump in the middle with a "STOP!!!" and follow it up with an emotional explanation that the repeating behavior and intensity of their fights are hurting you.  Be careful with this though.  Try working through the two options I just wrote above and any you might receive while praying to God for your mom and sister.

I would also mention that sometimes the path to healing crosses angry rivers.  You may very well have to get your loved ones mad at you to listen to you.  If they get mad, do everything you can to keep your peace.  But you have nothing to be ashamed of if you are being honest and your emotion follows you ... it crying, anger, whatever ... if our intentions are pure and right then our emotions that follow are justified.  Emotions are our body's chemical response to events happening inside and outside of our body.  I know that when my daughter cries because I am not understanding her, I am much more likely to slow down and listen ... not just to what she is saying, but what she is meaning by what she says.

I am going to pray with you and suggest you adjust this prayer to be yours to God.  Seek Him!  He sees you.  If your life is not where it needs to be in Him, get it right!  Confess your sins and His Lordship in Your life.  Let Him be the head of your home ... the perfect Father that never leaves, that never forsakes.

Lord, I ask that You work in this family.  I pray that You would empower this young woman to be Your voice and touch of love to her home.  I ask that You would surround her with caring people of God, full of Your love and able to work out a healing in this home.  I pray that You would intensify her ability to hear Your voice, and strengthen her resolve to seek You intervene in her family and home.  I finally pray that this entire family would come to know and accept You in a deeper way then they know now, and that deeper love would bring about a new love and tenderness for each other.  That this home and family would be known for their love towards each other and that it would be a trait passed though their family for generations.  I thank You for this family and Your love for this family.  I ask this in Jesus Name, Amen.

I hope this helps you.  My heart goes out to you.  I am praying for you and hope to hear a good report.

That's my take anyways!
Don't be confused.  LEARN STUFF!!!
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