No matter how much we love our family members, sometimes we wish we could wring their necks and slap some sense into them. Am I right?
That’s how I felt last fall when I logged into my son’s school account and saw his current grades. I almost choked on my coffee. Three. Failing. Grades! And to be clear, they weren’t the pseudo-failing grades that overachievers whine about (“I only got a 93? I’m outraged!”). No, these were true failing grades. Big. Fat. F’s. I still have to fan myself when I think about it.
I ran to my husband and shoved the evidence in his face. “Have you seen this?”
The longer we analyzed the numbers, the more our mutual outrage deepened. Most of the failing grades were the result of missing assignments. It’s one thing to struggle with understanding the material, but choosing not to try at all? That was a habit we couldn’t overlook.
We knew we had to address the situation, but we also knew that how we addressed it would matter more in the long run. Thankfully, we have an unwritten rule in our family, and we decided to let that guide our entire approach.
The rule: Our family will not turn against each other.
This may seem obvious when dealing with husband/wife conflict, but for us it means so much more.
WE ARE ON THE SAME SIDE
It starts with the reminder that we are on the same side. Sometimes we misinterpret conflict as treason and mislabel an ally as an enemy. And isn’t that convenient for the true enemy?
Satan wants nothing more than to turn families against one another. Husbands versus Wives. Parents versus Children. Us versus Them. And when that happens, we’re playing right into his trap. What better tactic on his part than to orchestrate a mass slaughter brought on by friendly fire?
No. We need to keep our allies and enemy clearly identified at all times to keep from taking each other down. The family unit is sacred and holy, designed by God for His glory, and we must guard and protect it at all cost.
Several years ago, after I’d been laid off suddenly from my job and we faced a financial strain we’d never faced before, an argument started to brew between my husband and me. Emotions always tend to be more sensitive when money is an issue, so our tempers began to show during a frustrating conversation about finances.
Thankfully, we stopped almost as quickly as we had begun. “Wait,” we said. “If we’re not careful, this could easily get out of hand and could drive us away from each other. We have to remember, no matter how difficult this situation becomes, we are on the same team. This will NOT get between us.” Because of that one simple moment, our marriage emerged from that difficult season stronger than it was before.
I wonder how many fights could be thwarted if we pressed pause long enough to remind each other, “Hey, we’re on the same side here. Let’s keep that in mind while we figure this out.”
WE HAVE THE SAME GOAL
In addition to being on the same team, our family shares the same goal: to grow closer to God and to each other.
Every situation that comes into our lives—both opportunities and obstacles—has the potential to lead us closer to God and each other, or to lead us further away from both. It’s up to us to choose the direction.
This is especially true when dealing with teenagers. With our son’s grades, we knew that how we handled the situation could either exasperate him (which the Bible clearly cautions against—see Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21) or help him. So we let our ultimate goal guide us as we brainstormed solutions. “What can we do so that his relationship with God and with us grows stronger as a result of this mess?”
When you acknowledge the proper primary goal, it helps keep all other minor goals in perspective. Do we want great grades? Sure. But not at the expense of our relationships. Do we want to raise independent children? Of course. But not if it means they no longer feel dependent on God.
If approached correctly, every conflict is an opportunity for spiritual growth. We need to keep our ultimate goal of growing in Christ at the forefront of every situation and ask God to reveal the winding path toward that destination one step at a time.
OUR FAMILY IS LARGER THAN WE REALIZE
The last step in adopting our family’s golden rule is understanding exactly who our family members are.
The Bible is clear that those who belong to Christ have been adopted into His family. We are joint heirs, brothers and sisters in Christ, and partners in the gospel. But boy, do we have a gift for sibling rivalry sometimes!
If you’ve been a Christian for longer than a minute, you know that even Christians can have mega meltdowns. We disagree, argue, question, and get our feelings hurt just as much as anyone else. However, the problem isn’t that we have conflict; it’s that we continue to deal with conflict as if we aren’t in the same family.
We forget that we are on the same team and miss opportunities to reaffirm that allegiance.
We forget that we both share the same goal of growing closer to Christ and each other and miss opportunities to help each other step closer to that goal.
I’ve been in ministry in some form or fashion for decades, and there have been many times I have lost sight of who my family members are. I’ve allowed Satan to deceive me into mislabeling a brother or sister as an enemy. I’ve allowed him to trick me into chasing false goals (like the goal of being right or the goal to be heard) rather than my ultimate goal of growing closer to Christ.
Friends, sisters, we need each other. We cannot afford to turn against one another when so much is at stake.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE SUCCEED
It’s been months since my initial panic attack over my son’s failing grades, and I’m happy to report that he came out the other end with very mediocre grades. Why am I thankful for a few mediocre, barely-passing grades? Because our family did not turn against each other and we learned and grew by leaps and bounds in the process.
Looking back, I wouldn’t undo that season of struggle at all because I see clearly the blessings that came from that time:
• We strengthened our communication with more frequent, face-to-face discussions.
• We reminded our son that we are available for help, advice, and encouragement.
• We recognized that he is still learning how to manage his time, juggle deadlines, and deal with work/life balance.
• We gave him practical tools (like a homework app to track assignments, electronics restrictions, and proper bedtime expectations) to help him succeed.
• We reaffirmed that his character, integrity, and work ethic are more important than his grades.
• We clarified the difference between working with godly excellence and working toward legalistic perfectionism.
• And finally, we helped him see that God is not finished with him yet. He doesn’t have to earn our love or God’s love. And God, the ultimate Author of his story, is faithful and trustworthy to help him through any obstacle, whether school-related or not.
It’s often easier to adopt this mindset before conflict clouds your thinking. Consider how you can use your struggles today to remind those you love that you are on the same side, to remember that ultimately you have the same goal, and to affirm that your family will never turn against each other when conflicts arise.
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