LIFEadvice: Stop the fighting in your family

By Kimberly Giles, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Jan. 16, 2012 at 6:15 a.m.



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Question:

We struggle with past grievances in our family. We are not able to let them go and move on. Over time we are getting together less and less, and each family member has his own reason for not coming. How can I, as the mom, help my children learn to forgive each other … and let things go … so we can enjoy each other’s company again?

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Answer: You can encourage your family members to see the situation differently and forgive.

We are too quick to take offense at things our family memebers say and do. We make unintentional mole-hill offenses into giant mountains that destroy relationships. The solution must start with a change in our attitude towards our family.

Desmond Tutu said, “You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them.”

This statement is true, but let’s make one thing perfectly clear: God did not send them to make your life easy and joyful; they are in your life for a much more important reason.

Remember: Your life is a classroom, and every experience is a lesson. The people in your life are there to be your teachers. Your parents, inlaws, siblings, spouse and children are in your life to provide you with opportunities for growth. They will provide the most powerful opportunities for growth you will ever have. They will help you see yourself accurately. They will show you every dimension of your personality (both good and bad), and they will do this by pushing your buttons.

Your family members will push buttons you didn’t even know you had. They will help you see your selfishness, your insecurities and your fears, and they will do this by ripping you apart, letting you down and offending you on a regular basis.

Welcome to life.


Your family members are here to teach you how to forgive, and give you opportunities to practice it. You may have some relatives who are a source of unconditional love and support but I guarantee you will, at some point, marry or give birth to someone who will teach you forgivness the hard way.

These people are in your life to teach you to be a better you — and especially to teach you about forgiveness, which is the greatest lesson you are here to learn. We know this because it was Christ’s mission to teach you about forgiveness, and his mission was the greatest and most important act in human history.

Your family members (especially those who offend you) are here to teach you how to forgive and to give you opportunities to practice it. You may have some relatives who are a source of unconditional love and support but I guarantee you will, at some point, marry or give birth to someone who will teach you forgivness the hard way. When this happens, smile and don’t act surprised.

Your relatives are supposed to cause problems in your life. Let go of the idea that your family is going to unconditionally love you, know you and support you. They are human beings in process just like you, which means they are scared and focused on themselves most of the time. This means, most of the time, they aren’t capable of showing up for you.

Get over it, love them anyway.

Let go of the idea that they should understand you and overlook your faults. They won’t. They will most likely call you on every last one of them.

Pamela Dugale said, “Siblings are the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring, but quite often the hard way.”

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Your siblings and parents, and especially your spouse and children, are in your life to teach you to be a better you. They are here to help you discover who you are and to give you chances to step it up and improve yourself.

The questions you must ask yourself on a regular basis are:

  • What are these family problems showing me about myself?
  • What are these people teaching me by driving me crazy?
  • How are these situations giving me an opportunity to be a better me? To be more forgiving or more Christ-like?

If you are holding onto anger and refusing to forgive members of your family, these situations will keep coming until you get it.

Let go and choose love.

Remember, you don’t forgive people because they deserve it — you forgive them because you deserve it. You forgive them so you can move on and be a better you. You forgive them for their imperfectness because you want to be forgiven for yours. This lesson is why you are here.

You are a work in progress. You are not perfect. You are still learning and growing and you have a long way to go. Allow your family members to be a work in progress, too. Don't take offense when they are less than perfect. Love them even when they hurt you. Love them even if they don’t deserve it.

Choose love — it will change everything.

Now, you may have some family members who are so toxic your best option is to avoid them, but these situations are rare. You may have other situations that prompt a conversation with the offender about the offense. (Follow the steps for a validating conversation in last week’s article.) But most of the time your best option is to choose love and let it go.

That is the best advice I can give. Love is always the answer.

You can do this.

Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of www.ldslifecoaching.com and www.claritypointcoaching.com. She is a life coach and speaker. Watch LIFEadvice with her on KSL-TV every Monday between 6 and 6:30 a.m.

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