For most of us, no one knows us from the very beginning of our lives in the way that family members do. They watch us and help us grow up, from taking those first stumbling steps to graduating high school, walking us down the aisle, and maybe even celebrating the birth of our own children.
But what happens if you feel that you sometimes struggle to like or even accept your relatives? What goes wrong when in turn, we feel that family members don’t understand or accept us in the same way that we perceive ourselves?
Honoring Your Parents
Honor your father and mother, we’re told in Exodus 20:12.
But what happens if a parent wants something different for you than you want for yourself?
We can respect and love our family but not necessarily like their advice.
For example, perhaps you see yourself as an artist but everyone in your family is a scientist. You feel that they don’t understand or even really see who you are when they urge you to study science yourself.
Or maybe your parents have built a business and want you to run it. What happens if your desire is to work for a non-profit organization rather than join the family’s empire?
We can respect them as our parents and communicate to them that respect without ignoring our own feelings.
Brotherly (and sisterly) love: Do you feel like Linus with Lucy?
In his delightful Peanuts comic strips crafted by Charles M. Schulz, Lucy’s younger brother Linus often got a raw deal at the hands of his sister.
One such comic strip, for example, showed Linus carefully creating what he considered a work of art. He later discovers that Lucy has tossed it in the trash.
When Linus complains to Lucy, she informs him that their mother told her to clean house and she obeyed.
But Linus dares to tell his sister that she was wrong, declaring, “Great art should never be mushed up!”
It’s all too easy to feel hostile or angry at a brother or sister, believing that your sibling just doesn’t understand or appreciate you.
But there’s a big difference between explaining to your brother or sister why you feel hurt by their words or actions and actually hating them, as 1 John 4:20 tell us.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
Both the Bible and Torah remind us to love our family. And that holds true, whether they disagree with our career choice or, in the words of Linus, “mush up” what we consider to be great art. The key is in how we decide to express our feelings with honor, respect, and love, even when that means putting some distance between yourself and your family, and owning up to the times you may have created some of the friction through being willing to argue, bicker or feel vengeful in your heart.
So, no, we don’t always have to like them or choose to be around them.
We only have to make a conscious choice to not let their choices to lead you to holding hate in your heart. In the end, who is the only person who is hurt by those feelings?
Forgive when you can find it in your heart and through prayer, of course.
How about when family members are abusive or neglectful?
Obviously, God doesn’t want to remain in a bad situation. Sometimes you have to honor your safety and create a lifelong distance. It is absolutely acceptable, as a faithful person, to leave behind family when they are purposely destructive of your mental, physical or spiritual health through abuse or complete rejection. That doesn’t have to be about hate. It may be, ultimately, about healing.
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