Are you aware of the disillusionment that comes from paying too much attention to social media? We can easily become discontent with our own lives, our own bodies, our own families, or our social status. In the summer time, it seems like many people post pictures of their family spending time together–on a summer vacation, hanging out at the local pool, taking a day trip to the zoo, going to the beach, on the boat, etc. In most of these pictures, the family looks pretty happy. I mean why would you post an unhappy picture to highlight your last family vaca on social media? That seems awkward.
And yet here’s the reality: I can guarantee you that the majority (if not all) of us have some form of conflict during our summer outings.
What causes the conflict and how can you handle it? These are two loaded questions, but I want to suggest 2 causes and 2 helps.
Causes of Conflict
1. The desires that wage war within you (James 4:1-3)
We all have passions and desires. They are not bad. However, when those passions or desires become demands we put on others, we begin to cross a line.
We want to be happy, and when we sense others jeopardizing our “right” to happiness, we get angry and can lash out at them. When we want to engage in a particular activity and others do not, we may sulk or complain because our wants are not being met, which causes others to not want to be around us. We think we deserve down time to relax from our stressful jobs, but others need us and this creates tension because we don’t want to be needed. So we treat them unfairly or unkindly out of our struggle.
2. Not having an appropriate understanding of self and others
Do you know who you are? Do you really know your strengths and weakness and who God has uniquely wired you to be? Do you understand your family members? Do you know what they bring to the table as their gifts and how God has uniquely wired them?
Most of us do not know the answer to these questions. Instead, we live under assumptions that we make about ourselves and others. We have heard phrases that describe us and we receive those without taking a second look. We have been hurt by our family members and we in turn draw conclusions that they are difficult or stressed or moody all the time. We want to be loved and accepted but we are afraid that won’t happen, so we wear a mask, fooling ourselves and others.
All of these choices can lead to conflict. When you do not know who you really are, you are always changing colors, like a chameleon. Others around you do not know what to expect.
When you don’t take the time to know family members, you miss out on the strengths they bring to the relationship because you assume what is going on in them, rather than asking.
Helps for Handling Conflict
1. Surrender your rights
Realize your desires are not always the desires of others. We were made for community. And yet community forces us to take a regular, hard look at ourselves. When Jesus died on the cross, he gave up all rights. He exchanged his life for our life. We are called to take up our cross daily. Part of what this looks like is that we must die to our own “rights.” We must follow the Great Commandment to love God and love others. This means surrendering what we want or desire at times.
2. Get to know yourself and your family better
We all carry stress, and many of us take it out on those we love. It’s time we learn more about who we are so we can live from our true and genuine selves.
Begin to ask yourself these questions: What are my fears? What are my strengths? Where am I weak? What am I most longing for in life? Self-examination is tough, but it is very rewarding.
Take the time to get to know your family members too. Ask them the same questions you ask yourself and then share with them how you answered those questions. A great tool to help with this is the Enneagram. The Enneagram is an assessment not to box you in, but to give you a grid with which to understand yourself and others.
As you get to know yourself and others, then you can begin to appreciate who you are and who they are. Then maybe you can offer the greatest gift of all to yourself and others: LOVE. When you love yourself and others as God has called you to do, then you are usually willing to offer your true self and receive theirs.
One final principle to remember as many of us gather together with our families during the summer time is this: If you fight in public, make it right in public! You are not required to share all the details, but others may hear you fight and draw their own conclusions that may not be true based on how you resolved the conflict. When it involves family, it’s important to talk about it. This is especially true if you have children. They need to learn healthy conflict resolution from their home settings. This is one of the biggest ways you can make a difference in the world: by passing on the legacy of knowing yourself and surrendering your rights out of a love for God, self, and others.