Avoiding Arguments

By Marjorie Foerster Eddington


How do we avoid getting into arguments with family members?


That's a tough question. It seems that our family members push our buttons, and we push theirs. Maybe it's because we know each other so well. Maybe we think that our family will give us a break when we're unkind. Maybe we think they'll love us no matter what – and they might. But that doesn't give us license to abuse our relationships with family members or hurt them. Shouldn't we give them our best?

God has given us a family to help us grow spiritually. The point of a family unit is to express God's love with each other, to serve and support our family members. If a sibling treats us poorly, we have the opportunity to love better, to be kind rather than resentful. It takes more self-control and thought not to react to a family member's flip remark. But turning to God for a way to respond that will bring peace and progress lifts us out of feeling annoyed or resentful, and will make our family more harmonious and joyful.

Because it seems harder to be kind (though it's really not), some people make the argument that they just want to relax or to be themselves at home. Sometimes this includes believing that they can tell a family member how they "honestly" feel without considering the effect of their words on the other person.

But being testy, intense, reactionary, insulting, argumentative, critical, complaining, etc. does not represent our best selves. God created us in His image. Since God is Love, we are the image of Love. Therefore, our best self is loving: "God's Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled" (Gal 5:22, 23 CEV).

Family members have feelings, too—important feelings. If being "honest" means pointing out their flaws rather than showing them their greatness; if it means making sure they understand our point rather than working harder to understand theirs; if it means shouting instead of exercising control and talking calmly, then we're not really being honest. Instead, we're breaking the commandment that tells us not to "bear false witness" (Ex 20:16) because we're not seeing them as God sees them.

Rather than treating our family members worse than other people—our friends, teachers, teammates, bosses, coaches—we really should treat them better than anyone else. That doesn't mean we can treat non-family members poorly; it means we need to be better with our family – see the best and give our best God-given selves.

We all have something to teach, and we all have things to learn. So getting along with our family should be a top priority for us. Our family is really our laboratory for living Jesus' teachings – loving our neighbor as ourselves, not judging, turning the other cheek, giving the shirt off our back, living the Golden Rule, not criticizing others, letting our light shine, washing their feet, giving our lives for them.