Doing Life Together

teen girl upsetFamilies stir up all kinds of emotions in us. Anger is one of those emotions that seems to rear its ugly head too often in family relationships. We often get angry because we don’t feel our needs are being met or we think we are being treated poorly. When we try to deal with problems, we find the process difficult.

Most of us want to be grown ups and handle our emotions in a mature way. Sometimes that requires us to look to the past before we can manage our present emotions. If you and your parents have a number of unresolved issues from the past, they will follow you into the present if you don’t intentionally deal with them.

Your anger can be triggered from past hurts that you’ve yet to discuss or work through with them. If this is the case, you have two choices: 1) Choose to forgive past hurts and stop holding on to those issue. 2) And/or confront the issues and try to make peace. Keep in mind that it takes one person to forgive (you) and two people to reconcile (you and your parent). So if your parents won’t confront an issue, are in denial about it or refuse to address it, forgiveness is as far as you can go. That’s OK because it will move you out of that angry place.

Regardless of how we perceive our parents (good, bad or indifferent), or what reality may be for us, we are challenged to make the first move towards reconciliation. Clients often say to me, “If they hurt me, they should make the move first to forgive.” My response is usually, “Only children fight about who goes first! And in the words of Nike, Just of it!”

If you want to rid yourself of anger and start improving your relationships, practice these six points:

1) Your parents aren’t perfect and never will be. Stop wishing they would be different–wishful thinking keeps anger going and fuels upset. Let it go. Grieve losses and become more realistic.

2) They made mistakes that require your forgiveness. Forgive and acknowledge they are human just like the rest of us. Holding on to unforgiveness hurts you as well. It festers, turns to bitterness and impacts your physical and relationship health.

3) Try to be empathetic and extend grace. It wasn’t easy raising you. Be more aware of their perspective, stresses, and coping skills. When you are a parent, you quickly gain respect for the difficulty of the job. Some of us were better prepared by our original families for the job of parenting than others. Grace is often needed.

4) Try to understand them  better as people–did things happen in their lives that influence how they react to you? Listening to their life stories often helps with empathy. Their stories don’t excuse bad behavior, but  do help you understand them better as people.

5) Try to work on unresolved hurts. You may need the help of a therapist. When conflict is high and difficult, bringing in a third party is not only biblical,  but helpful. Clearing the air, clears the path for better relationships.

6) You can’t change them, but you can change your response to them. Work on your reactions no matter how difficult you find theirs. You are responsible for how your react to difficult people. Their behavior doesn’t excuse yours.

Take a deep breath, calm down, and work on this intimate connection. It’s a prototype for all others. The better you respond to your parents, the better friend, partner and person you will be.


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