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Seems to me, everybody around me is talking about it: The most intense fighting is in families. When you love someone, have a long history, and are stuck with them – that’s when your fights escalate beyond mild disagreement. This was the premise for a theory I heard recently on NPR.
Conflict stems from my truth vs. your truth. The reason for fighting was explained with that one simple statement. A top diplomat working in Gaza agrees. He says the cultural differences and opposing religious ideologies, among the Palestinians themselves, is the greatest obstacle to peace.
Hit me over the head with it, until I see it for myself! There are countless experts sharing their ideas and advice about anger and fighting. It just never occurred to me to go beyond the surface of the issue to understand why family members fight with each other and why there’s intra-fighting among religious groups.
I’m a lover not a fighter – LOL! But I’ve seen some very intense “family fights” in my day. My husband and I were guests for a Memorial Day BBQ about twenty years ago. Connie and Lydia got into a fight because Connie accused Lydia’s husband of not offering to close and stack the folding chairs. They haven’t spoken since.
I suppose if I put my thinking cap on, I could have figured it out. The fight wasn’t about clean-up duty. Connie and Lydia are sisters who always had a powder keg relationship. They love each other deeply, they both hold deeply held beliefs on proper behavior, and there is a deep cultural divide between them. It’s the perfect scenario for unresolved conflict. Oh yeah, and they’re both very stubborn.
And the same goes for war. The most stubborn conflicts have “what I believe is truer than what you believe” at its core. I see it happening between religious denominations. Orthodox and Reform Jews are fiercely fighting over how to pray at the Wall in Jerusalem. Conservative Christians claim to have the only acceptable position for Christianity on political issues. Everyone holds stubbornly to their viewpoint, criticizing each other for doing so.
So now that we’ve identified the problem; how do the experts recommend you end family fighting? Some say to make a decision to see the other point of view. Others suggest you talk, calling on a neutral party to help you stay calm and sensible. All advise compromise. While these contain many good suggestions, making a game plan isn’t the only consideration.
You have to actually sit down, when you feel like standing. Let me explain. Most of us are pretty darn good at loving. We love our families and our friends and we are willing to do whatever it takes to protect them. You are defending the people and things you love, when you stick to your principles in a fight. Lydia was defending her husband, and ideological religious groups defend their tribe by standing up to the “enemy.” What would happen if everybody just sat down and listened? No ultimatums or pre-conditions— just a civil meeting, where two people come together as family members.
1. If I only listen, and not react to what you have to say, and you return the favor, we have taken the first step.
2. If I resolve not to convince, convert or condemn, but change the subject and move on to talk about something we both agree on, we are now rediscovering our commonality.
3. If I ask that we honor God and our families by defending the peace in our family above all conflicting principles, we have ended family fighting.
Maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.