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Family Life | Build strong family relationships: Handling conflicts

No relationship goes deeper without conflicts. Our selfish nature, tendencies to self-protect, expectations of another, differences in thinking, values, outlook, personality, and many others could lead to hurts, disappointments, conflicts. The deeper the relationship, the deeper is the hurt and the impact of the conflict, especially if the cause of the conflict goes unresolved. The home actually could be a good training ground for conflict management and resolution, instead of breeding ground for unhealthy and damaged relationships because conflicts have not been faced well nor resolved.Young children, by their very nature of complete honesty, often have conflicts but they also quickly get over the conflicts as they play together. Conflicts can be turned to good if they are handled well and everyone grows in the process of resolving them.

For this time, let’s discuss the unhealthy ways conflicts are handled in families. The FIlipino trait of hiya creates many unhealthy ways of facing conflicts. One usual way is to not talk about the conflict, just let a few days pass to cool down the hurt or anger, and then go back to normal as if nothing happened. Admitting wrong or confronting someone brings shame, so we just let it pass. It is okay if issues are very minor due to preferences or habits, but it can fester if it keeps on recurring because issues are not talked about openly.

Another unhealthy way of handling conflict is to just let things simmer for a while until one reaches boiling point and then erupt like a volcano! This one does not act out initially the hurt or anger because we are ashamed to admit that we actually felt hurt or angry.  So we bury it Instead. However, if indeed we are greatly affected and not dealt with, bitterness, negative thinking, and critical spirit could show up every so often. When a major conflict occurs, all the kept accumulated hurts or anger spews out. This way is damaging to one’s health, and spreads the poison to other members of the family.

Another unhealthy way is to confront by blaming the other person and insist on your being right that brings shame and guilt on the other. This is what Matthew 7:3 says: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Parents could usually out reason and explain away abusive behavior to children that make children feel they are at fault for the parent’s anger.  This behavior may spring from pride, insecurities, blind spots, and power position in the family. The recipient of such behavior could get riled up, becomes rebellious, or feel discouraged and even depressed.

Another unhealthy way is to “let it all out” just to diffuse the anger valve and then feel shame afterwards so one compensates profusely for the damage created with one’s words or actions done in anger. The book of Proverbs describes such person as a fool (Proverbs 29:11): “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” This way is so damaging that one is advised to stay away from such a person (Proverbs 22:24). This is difficult when one lives in the same house with such a person, so help needs to be sought to remedy this situation.

In our family, we have experienced all four in varying degrees and times. My husband tended to bury things, while I wanted to confront and talk. There were times I let him have his way, but when I reach a point I could not ignore the hurts, then we have to talk or I could not go on pretending nothing is wrong. Our son grew up having freedom to express his strong emotions, and when teenage angst hit him, words would spill out in his anger. In all these experiences, we learned some important lessons. One is to never meet anger with anger. One has to stay cool and not worsen the conflict. Another is to not take things personally and is usually learned from living with the person long enough to know when the person is just venting out. Another lesson is to choose what battles to fight because it involves sin, destructive habits, or leading to the wrong path, and which to just let go because of differences, preferences, or peculiarities. Another lesson is to be willing to always extend grace and forgiveness to one another as we learn from our mistakes and grow towards maturity. Home should be a place where we learn to handle and manage conflicts where we could grow in love instead of apart.



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