As Christians, we’re encouraged to be kind, loving, and patient with everyone. Sometimes this can feel difficult or impossible, especially when we’re struggling to get along with a family member. Family members are often the hardest people to reach because those who are closest to us often know how to hurt us the most. However, with the right tools, you can find peace.
Stop Trying to Change Them
As much as you’d like to, you can’t change someone else’s behavior. You can only change yours. Stress reduction specialist Debbie Mandel recommends changing what you see in a family member and how you react. In other words, don’t anticipate irritation every time you see this family member, or focus on how he or she irritates you. Remind yourself of his or her positive traits. Cousin Maria may seem to never stop talking, but she’s also warm and social. Grandpa may seem cynical and negative, but he may also have deep empathy for hurting individuals.
Avoid Heated Topics
You’ve heard it before, and it’s true: never discuss religion or politics at the family table. These can be heated topics even if all or most of your family members come from the same faith or political party. In addition, try to avoid topics that may offend certain people. For example, if your brother and sister-in-law are having a hard time conceiving, it may be best to gently steer the conversation away from babies or kids.
Sometimes, family member difficulties go beyond annoyance. If your family member has abused you or a loved one, will not give up control no matter what you do, or engages in destructive behavior, it may be time to step back. Set firm but gentle boundaries. Say something like, “If you continue to act this way/say these things, I will walk away.” This puts responsibility on the family member to respond appropriately.