Getting together with family can be a cause for celebration, laughter, and fun… or it can drive us crazy! We may not be able to change who we are related to, but there is a reason that they are in our lives. Our closest relationships often provide a mirror that allows us to see things about ourselves – the good, bad, and the ugly. When faced with family conflict, there is a spiritual opportunity to grow, but it takes hard work and dedication.
Here are 3 tools to help strengthen family bonds:
1. Be mindful of how you speak about your family members to others. Whenever we judge or talk about someone in an unfavorable way and spread that information to other people, we are participating in what’s known as “evil speech.” Most of us understand that gossip and slander are not the nicest ways to talk about other people, but we don’t realize that it actually has a negative effect on our own well-being, even if we are just the ones listening to it!
When we talk badly of others, we may damage their reputation, change the way other people view them, and reinforce our own negative thoughts. Not only does this have a negative effect on the other person, but it pulls us away from growing as giving, sharing, selfless people. It limits our spiritual growth and can actually limit the blessings we bring into our lives.
You have a responsibility to stop evil speech from spreading. Ask yourself: why do I need to share this? Do I want to train myself to see the negative in others instead of the positive? Is this worth losing the relationship over? The more you practice avoiding evil speech, the healthier your relationships will become.
2. Tell your family how important they are to you. There are so many people in our lives to whom we owe debts and gratitude. We tend to think that they know how much we care and appreciate them deep down, and so we convince ourselves it doesn’t need to be said out loud.
It can be uncomfortable to share your feelings, but the benefits are so worth it. Speaking kindly and showing gratitude is the opposite of evil speech and actually connects us to the Light of the Creator.
Take an evening and share your gratitude with each other. Don’t just tell them, “I love you,” but give specific examples. What’s something they did for you that you are grateful for? What was a time they were there for you when you needed them most? You will never regret giving appreciation, but you will regret not giving enough.
3. Have the difficult conversations with empathy. Just like we often avoid telling the people closest to us how much they mean to us, it’s also easy to avoid confrontation. We may suppress or ignore things that are bothering us. But this is not healthy either. Resentment grows when we stay silent. If there’s something sitting on your heart, it’s worth addressing with the other person.
In order to be in the right place to have these difficult discussions, it requires a tremendous amount of empathy. The right conversation in the wrong frame of mind can be a disaster! Ask questions. Desire to know where the other person is coming from. Are you honoring and communicating your own feelings? Are you taking responsibility for your part in the conflict? Where can you offer forgiveness?
Remember, other people rarely mean to hurt us, and if they do, it probably comes from a place of lack in their lives that we aren’t aware of. Bring some empathy. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
Dealing with family can be tough, but our relationships are meant to show us where we need to grow. You can’t control other people, but you can do your part to stop evil speech, tell them how much they mean to you, and open the dialogue to express your feelings from a place of empathy.