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Solving Family Conflict in a Christ Pleasing Way

Family conflict can be especially hurtful. When family conflict surfaces, we are often deeply wounded. And don't always solve it in a way that pleases Christ.

Family conflict is especially hurtful. We know the world at large will hurt us, but expect our family to be a safe place. We hope our family loves, respects, values, treasures us. So when family conflict surfaces, we are often surprised and find ourselves deeply wounded.

But when we are hurt, we usually don’t respond well. Our first instinct is to get defensive. Our second is to wound back or withdraw. Neither response strikes at the heart of the conflict or reflects Christ.

And families often gather at already stressful times: weddings, funerals, holidays. Emotions are already running high. One careless word can ignite a firestorm if we don’t focus on solving our family conflict in a way that pleases Christ first.

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I can’t speak for you, but my selfishness is something I battle minute to minute. I really prefer to have things my way and struggle to relinquish the illusion of control. In the heat of the moment, selfish behaviors I believed long dead can still rise to the surface.

I see the world through only my flawed, human perspective. And when I let my hurt feelings take over, I think the worst of everyone and function from fear.

So handling conflict takes focusing on my new nature as a Christian (Romans 12:2).

I need to seek God’s perspective on the situation over my own.

So what is God’s perspective on family conflict?

First, He loves all the people in the conflict equally. God’s desire is for all to come to the life-giving-salvation Jesus provided on the cross. PERIOD.

Even if you’re the only believer in your family or the only one who seems to be walking by faith right now, God doesn’t love you more or better or think you should get your way because you’re a Christian.

Plus, how we handle the conflict might be more important than the actual resolution.

Is the issue at hand more important than anyone’s salvation?

My petty bickering with my husband really pales in comparison to thinking about his salvation being on the line with how I conduct myself.

Solving family conflict should start with being more concerned about our witness than getting our way.

While some conflicts are very serious and might require setting boundaries or seeking professional help, using the standard of the other person’s walk/salvation keeps us from elevating even the most difficult issues above our witness as a disciple of Christ.

When we focus on our witness over our way, God is glorified.

Is this family conflict more important than their salvation? When I focus on my witness over my way, God is glorified. Click To Tweet

If you have unsaved family, how you deal with hurts and conflict might be the best witness you ever have because how God asks us to live humbly and gently is so counter-cultural.

It takes a deep change in our hearts to give up taking offense, but I’ve never taken a hurt to Him and not received a verse or perspective shift that has allowed me to begin the process of forgiveness.

But we have to be willing to let go of our anger, which is easier said than done. Sometimes being angry feels like a right. Someone has mistreated us and we feel we deserve to be hurt, angry, indignant. We let that anger blossom in our chests like fire unfurling.

We let it roll around and grow into huge hurts, grudges, bitterness because we are so focused on ourselves. But that only hurts us and damages our relationships which doesn’t please Christ at all.



Secondly, God asks us to think less of ourselves and more highly of others.

Philippians 2:3 ESV Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

If we remove the rivalry and arrogance from our hearts and fill ourselves with humility, we’ll take less offense at the unkind words and attitudes of others, realizing that there are many dynamics to consider before responding.

To handle conflict, I have to be in right relationship with God first.

The more like Christ I become, the more I realize how far from Him I truly am. But seeing myself accurately is a gift from God. When I can see how desperately I need God’s grace, I have the humility of heart to offer grace and forgiveness to those around me.

I learned a lot about focusing on my own relationship with God in marriage (and all relationships) in the book I just finished using to lead a small group.

Before my emotions take over, I try to pray. Then I seek to understand the heart of the other person.

For example, my husband walked through the door, grumbling. His tone was sharp and he had a stompy attitude (You know, stomping around the house, slamming drawers while bitterly mumbling).

Deep breath – honey, you seem upset. Is something bothering you?

The wonderful bureaucracy that is the army had thrown a curveball into his day. It had nothing to do with me. While I didn’t appreciate his stompiness, I didn’t have to be hurt by his inability to cope with frustration. I could love him instead. I asked what he needed and let him have some space.

Even when the other person’s behavior is wrong, unkind, even abusive, we need to recognize their need for Christ. Letting their sin surprise us is where we go wrong.

I’ve learned to expect sinners to act like sinners. Even wise, obedient, mature Christians sin. Taking offenses to God in prayer before reacting from hurt is always the best answer.

I’ve found the closer I draw to God, the more sin grieves me for others than for how it affects me.

But I still struggle with entitlement: I think, deserve to be treated better!

But that isn’t really how Christ handled it. He expected to be rejected and abused, but responded rightly every time. Some instances, He exhibited righteous anger. While at others, He suffered quietly, allowing the silence to convict more loudly than words ever could.

Righteous, loving silence and the Holy Spirit can convict more loudly than any words. Don't react in surprise to the sin of others, but respond in peace. Click To Tweet

And he never told us to stand up for ourselves . . .

Matthew 16:24 ESV Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Ok, so that is super hard. Painfully so. But when I hold up my fist and demand my rights, I end up more angry and do more damage to my relationships.

Sometimes, I still struggle with getting sucked into this vicious cycle. I’ll start having a conversation, but if the other person responds poorly, I begin to feel unheard or disrespected. If I don’t step back to let God work in both of us those emotions run roughshod over reason. I’ll talk myself into a tizzy trying to fix something that needs me to be quiet.

Being quiet invites. We can gently ask questions and listen.

  • Your reaction surprised me. What hurt your feelings? I didn’t mean to hurt you. 
  • That sounds like it might be a painful topic for you. Want to talk about it?
  • That hurt my feelings. I’m sure you didn’t intend to, but I’m sensitive about that.
  • I’m not sure I understand. Can you tell me what you wanted to communicate?



That gentle heart assumes the best of the other person’s intentions and heart.

We hear the words people use, but don’t take the time to really understand what they were saying. People are messy – especially family members with whom we have so much history.

Proverbs 15:1 ESV A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

We make judgments and decisions based on twenty years of knowledge not just a single conversation. That’s not really fair, but it’s human nature. Assume the best and answer softly.

Try to see from their perspective.

Maybe your mother criticizes your husband because she worries about your happiness. She might be showing it in a terribly destructive way, but maybe that’s her reason for saying the things she does.

It’s so much easier to keep from getting angry when we recognize the humanity behind hurtful actions or comments. Maybe she misses the closeness you had before you were married or resents how far you have moved away from her.

Hurtful actions come from hurting people. When we love them, we can start to heal their hurts and our relationships.

The aunt or cousin who offers unsolicited parenting, marriage, housekeeping advice might be feeling unappreciated, unnoticed, or might simply be concerned about you.

The mother-in-law whose offers to help feel like backhanded attacks might be worried about how you are loving her child. She wants to see him happy.

Hurtful actions come from hurting people. When we embrace them, we can start to heal their hurts and our relationships. Click To Tweet

Don’t react, respond. Put yourself second and love the person whose comment or action hurt you. Why did they do that? What made them say that? How can you respond in a way that puts their needs and feelings above your own?

  • I know you worry about me. Thank you for your concern, but I prefer to talk about all the ways my husband cares for me instead of his mistakes. I sure make enough of my own. 
  • Oh, I do hate mopping. What have you found that works? 
  • Homeschooling isn’t the only option, and I your concerns are ones we’ve really thought and prayed over. I love that you love my kids and want what’s best for them! 
  • It’s really frustrating that this recipe didn’t turn out like Grandma’s. How do you make it? 
  • The way our marriage works is different, isn’t it? But your son is such a blessing to me. He is a good provider and father. 

In those hurtful moments, if we speak to their hurting places, we can better offer grace and work through the conflict.

What if you caused the conflict?

What if you thought light-heartedly teasing your cousin about being a terrible cook was no big deal, but touched a soft spot for struggling young wife. Or something you did years ago has become a bitter sticking point for a sibling.

Don’t let it go. Own up to it immediately. Apologize as if you had offended Christ. Because when we don’t love each other the way He commanded, we have.

John 13:35 ESV By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

We won’t always get it all perfect. Expect to fail. Expect to need to apologize. We hope to get along with our families, but navigating personalities, emotions, and sensitive topics is a minefield.

As we demonstrate Christ’s love in our witness, people will see our faith.

My prayer for your family is the same as for mine, may the unity of Christ govern all we say and do because His love solves conflicts where our human nature would leave chaos.

Colossians 3:14 ESV And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

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The Harsh Truth about being a People Pleaser

Are you a People Pleaser? I have been. I struggle against striving to please people almost daily. But the struggle has gotten easier since I learned the truth.

Are you a people pleaser? I have been. I struggle against striving to please people almost daily. But the struggle has gotten easier since I learned the truth.

Know what you get when a ‘recovering’ control freak is mixed with a harmony desiring people pleaser?

Me.

And it was messy and hard. And made me completely crazy! Didn’t do much for my family either.

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God’s been working on this area of my heart for some time now. I’m finally ready to grow past this selfish need to be perfect in everyone’s eyes.

That’s right, selfish. People pleasing is at its root self-centered, worrying about what others think of me all the time, worrying about MY reputation, how people talk about ME.

The first harsh truth about being a people pleaser is that it’s SIN.

Harsh truth about being a people pleaser? It's selfish, proud, and sinful. #peoplepleaser Click To Tweet

Pleasing people sounds so selfless, being intentionally considerate as much as humanly possible, weighing the feelings and needs of everyone, trying to make sure people feel loved and important.

Phew! Honestly, it’s exhausting.

and it’s crap.

Trying to be perfect isn’t selfless; it’s really pride.

In my arrogance, I felt like the happiness of everyone around me was my responsibility. If I failed as a person, then I failed as a witness for Christ.

And my human failings cause me to stumble. The weight of all this self-imposed stress drags me under the swirling waters of life, and my emotions get the better of me – what I intended doesn’t come out right at all.

Then I’m left running this crazy dialogue in my head, “How did this happen?  Is this MY fault?”

I strangle myself with guilt over having failed someone unintentionally and damaged my value in their estimation.

When in fact, I damaged my witness more through my false perfectionism than I ever could in my humble brokenness.

And I was taking responsibility for things that were not mine to own.



The second harsh truth is – We are not supposed to please people.

Being a people pleaser detracts from our true identity.

When we focus so much on how people perceive us, we aren’t keeping our focus where it belongs. Everything in my life starts to unravel when I take my eyes off Him.

Being a people pleaser is exhausting and detracts from our true identity in Christ. Click To Tweet

My sole responsibility is owning my identity as a child of God.

John 1:12 ESV  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

God has convicted me that all I’m supposed to do is strive to live pleasing Him, continually growing in gentleness and humility, wisdom and discernment. As I do that, my attitude toward others becomes naturally kind, intentional, loving in a way that isn’t about me at all.

He has shown me the daily need for spending time in my Bible. Even missing one day changes the way my flesh reacts to my daily life.



Colossians 3:12 ESV  Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

When I worry about pleasing God ONLY (not first, ONLY), I put on compassion, humility, patience. I practice kindness and gentleness. Living those values will serve those in my life.

As I continue to change, some will be so pleased and encouraged by my righteousness and gentle spirit. Some won’t be pleased at all. They’ll be angry that I’m not running myself ragged, jumping through their hoops. That’s okay. I can’t do everything that everyone needs. I have to prioritize the mission field that God gave me. 

  1. My own spiritual walk
  2. Serving and loving my spouse
  3. Being a mother
  4. Caring for my family and friends
  5. Mentoring/Discipleship
  6. Serving in my community/church

Dividing myself and my attention into a million pieces isn’t healthy. God asks us to serve and work hard for Him, but we have to pay attention to the jobs that He has given us. And leave the rest to Him.

Jesus didn’t please everyone. He lived a peaceful, sinless life that made some people hate him all the way to the cross.

Because you can’t really please people.

We misunderstand, fail to communicate, and filter our thoughts through our own human brokenness and perspectives.

The third harsh truth about being a people pleaser is – that it doesn’t work!

Often, when I try to please people on my own, I end up hurt and rejected, wondering what happened.

One of these days, I hope I’ll truly learn that apart from Christ I am wholly incapable of bearing His fruit.

The harsh truth about being a people pleaser is that it's not our job to try to please PEOPLE. Click To Tweet

John 15:5 ESV  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Only abiding in Christ and His word releases me from my hamster wheel of doom; because in Him alone can I find the peace of knowing His truths over human feelings.

I can’t force anyone to love or respect me, accept my apology, see my perspective, or be my friend.

I have to do my best to humbly try to please God, knowing He loves me from the inside out.

And let the rest go. That isn’t my side of the equation.

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What to do When People Disappoint

When people disappoint us, we can be so surprised. We stand there with our pretty picture shattered and say now what? What do we do when people disappoint?

When people disappoint, it’s shocking. We know in our heads that people will disappoint us, but we can be so surprised when we are standing in that place because our hearts didn’t really believe it.

Sometimes, like over the past few weeks, some of the people who have disappointed us weren’t even in our lives except through our television or politics, but when someone we respected or even idolized turns out to be merely human, we feel deeply disappointed.

But when it’s personal, oh, that moment is so crushing-staring in the face of incontrovertible evidence that someone you love fell short today. We feel betrayed.

Our picture of that person is cracked or shattered in one fell swoop. Maybe the picture of your relationship cracked too, or your perception of yourself through their eyes changed.

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Maybe you sensed it was coming, but often, one final straw finally drifts into place on the proverbial camel’s back and our relationship is on the chopping block.

I’m right there with you. Earlier last year, I wrote about how weary I am, and part of my weary is dealing with some difficult relationships. Long distances, text messages, awful choices, and busy schedules all contribute to how we disappoint each other, and I’m struggling with tough places in a few different relationships.

Here is where I’m resting today.

People always disappoint.

Because we’re flawed and human, All. Of. Us. We are going to disappoint each other, in little ways and big ones, at some point.

I had to stop being surprised when people are human.



Stop being surprised people are human. Restore them in gentleness when people disappoint. Click To Tweet

We set ourselves up with unfair expectations. We expect sinners to never fall into temptations when we fall ourselves, daily.

In that moment, when the disappointment is raw, put yourself in their shoes. Giving them all the benefit of the doubt, what do you think they were thinking? Have you ever slid down a slippery slope one tip-toe step at a time until you were headlong into the mud?

I know I have!

What do you think they are feeling now facing your disappointment? How can we meet them in Christ where they are?

How we handle the moment of disappointment may speak louder than anything else we do.

Galatians 6:1 ESV  Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

What does it look like to restore someone in gentleness and avoid the temptation to sin ourselves?

First, I remember my own failures and God’s grace for me when I don’t deserve it.

I have yet to survive one day without failure. Offer grace first when people disappoint. Click To Tweet



I’ve been reading 1 & 2 Samuel recently. I’m blown away by how these familiar stories speak new wisdom to me today. The stories of Saul and David say so much about how to act when people disappoint us.

Saul was God’s anointed king for Israel, but (1 Samuel 18) in his sin, he fell from God’s grace, becoming paranoid and selfish, plotting to kill David.

David is disappointed, heartbroken, his king that God anointed, wants him dead for no failure of his own. If anyone had a right to feel disappointment, it was David.

David had loved Saul like a father. Saul’s son Jonathan was David’s best friend, closer than a brother. Yet, David had to run for his life.

David’s life on the run was miserable. He and his men were cold, hungry, uncomfortable. Again, if anyone had a right to be angry and bitter, David did. But that isn’t how David behaved.

Could you have supernatural grace for someone trying to kill you?

David twice finds Saul served to him by God’s hand, in the cave (1 Samuel 24/26 ) and in his camp asleep, but instead of letting his hurt and anger rule him, David chooses to show Saul he could have killed him, but did not.

David takes steps to protect himself, but sees Saul is really sinning against God, not himself. Despite sadness and dismay, he does not seek to return hurt for hurt.

TWICE, David spares a man who is murderously plotting against him without cause, leaving Saul’s fate in God’s hands.

Twice? why?

David’s righteousness made Saul’s sins more glaring. In light of the opportunities to kill Saul that David didn’t take, Saul should have seen David’s loyalty. However, his own sin completely blinded him.

Also, David’s responses serve as examples for us of how to continue in righteousness, even when offense piles upon offense.

So, I’m still disappointed. I have hurt feelings, I’ve lost trust in some people, and some of my relationships may not be restored right now.

But my focus has to be on God who never disappoints and staying righteous in His eyes.

I have to remember my emotions are nothing compared to God’s ability to rebuke or restore, forgive and sanctify. I can wait on Him.

Protecting myself is okay, but I should avoid returning sin for sin.

Letting God rule my heart even in the midst of big disappointments isn’t always easy. I get angry; I hurt. Indignant doesn’t look good on me, but in my own sin, I disappoint people all the time. I’m not usually trying to fail when I do.

Even in my biggest failures, one small decision led to another that led to disaster. I never set out to sin, but temptation erodes slyly.

1 Peter 5:8 ESV /Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

If I hope for grace, I have to offer it too. Recognizing that my worth and value in God’s eyes is immutable gives me pause to connect their failures with human nature, and offer a chance to explain, to understand, to apologize.

In the end, when people disappoint, I guard my own walk with Christ and forgive them, and wait for God to direct the situation. His guidance is always right on time.