It’s never easy to face people who have deeply hurt you; whether physically or emotionally. It’s even harder during the holiday season. Family members travel thousands of miles bearing gifts, meals and loads of pain from the past. Over time people have developed many ways of dealing with family hurt. Some people choose to avoid seeing certain family members; some ignore them even when they do see them. Some people choose to yell and bicker, while others choose to get revenge. In every scenario, one can easily convince themself that their behavior is justified. However, none of these methods offer the reconciliation, peace, and love that Jesus died for us to enjoy.
When we think about feuds among our family members we have to first understand that it is not God’s desire for blood relatives to be in discord. We know that Christ died for us to have life, and to have it more abundantly. Abundantly living does not involve holding grudges, placing blame and fighting fire with fire. According to scripture, it looks like having the fullness of joy, peace past understanding and love that overflows. These promises are not just for our private and personal lives. These promises are meant to be shared among loved ones too.
If you are in the position of the offender or the offended, here are few tips that may help you to alleviate any bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness among your family members.
- Apologize as soon as possible. As soon as you recognize that you have offended your loved one you should speedily make amends. The longer you take to admit fault, the more time your loved one has to meditate on what was said or done and the wound becomes deeper. Jesus even instructed us in Matthew 5:25 to settle matters quickly with our adversary. An adversary is simple someone you are in disagreement with or have animosity with. In the verse, Jesus makes the point that if you don’t settle matters quickly you will not escape the consequences that come after. These consequences may come in the form of a lawsuit, violence, divorce, or may cause relationship damage to loved ones not involved. Once you make up your mind to apologize, the Holy Spirit will give you the words to say.
- Admit you were hurt. The truth is no one can make amends for something they don’t know hurt you in some way. Although it may be hard to verbalize offense or heartache, keeping silent only deepens the wound and widens the scar. Just as we are sensitive enough to be hurt by what is said or done, we must also be humble enough to admit it. If healing is truly our desire, we must be willing to push aside pride and admit to ourselves, a trusted loved one, or the offender, the hurt that was caused and why. Don’t think that admitting your feelings make you childish or weak. Confessing actually shows your maturity and your willingness to get past it. Sometimes, by holding back the truth, we can often forget the true reason we were upset and start resenting the person for random and minute reasons.
- Genuine love is the BEST revenge. One of the hardest scriptures to execute is Matthew 5:44. It says to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This verse is then demonstrated in Proverbs 25:21-22 where it is written, when we give to our enemies it’s like heaping hot coal on their heads. From this, I realize that genuine love is the most effective way to get back at someone. For one, it causes them no harm, and secondly, it allows you to share the God kind of love. To LOVE is to GIVE. When we repay evil with love, no one wins and no one loses but God gets all the glory. The question is, how do we get our heart to this point. Here are a few ways:
- Pray that God will soften the person’s heart– The more you pray for people who hurt you, the more they become less of an offender to you and more of a regular human.
- Avoid conversations that give you opportunity to gossip about them– When you are trying to love someone, the last thing you want to do is plant seeds of negativity in your heart about them. Don’t feed the offense in your heart by talking to everyone about it, instead speak on their positive attributes or change the subject.
- Take care of their needs or give them a gift– I know this may seem fake, but remember, your goal is to show God’s love. If you find out they have a particular need, help them achieve it. It can even be anonymous. This act changes your heart posture towards them so that God can be glorified.
- Accept the wrong treatment of others for the sake of peace. In 1 Corinthians 6:7, Paul is speaking on how there are people within the church who are accusing each other of wrongdoings and are taking them to court. He writes that they have already failed their assignment to God and each other by doing this. Then he says something amazing and almost crazy. He tells them they should accept the wrong treatment of others, rather than defend themselves against the wrong so that there can be peace among them. Simply put, he’s saying yes you were hurt and yes you were wronged, but for the sake of avoiding the demon of division and resentment, just let it go. Could you imagine the transformations that would happen within our families if when wronged, we don’t retaliate or try to defend ourselves, but we simply let it go and moved past it so that peace can abound during our family gatherings? Such a display of love, maturity, and mercy can soften the hardest of hearts. This is God’s purpose for His people and the family unit. For us to show sacrificial and grace-filled love that draws us closer to Him and to each other.
Unless we began to look at that family hurt through the eyes of Christ and handle it with the heart of God, there will be no relief. Being angry and bitter towards a loved one hurts you more than the person on the receiving end. We can’t go into another holiday season holding on to offenses, starting arguments about past events, and justifying bad behavior. That is not how Christ would have it.