I believe there are two primary ways for a family to handle difficult situations:
- Ignore them
- Talk about them
I also believe that most families tend to ignore difficult situations. How about yours? Perhaps it’s a combo: we talk about the spaghetti incident but *never* about the time Cousin Vinny went to court.
Fear and love are both powerful motivators. Fear is the typical motivator when it comes to ignoring family issues. Shame, discomfort, and aversion to pain keeps things underground and, therefore, out of the way.
We all have that room in our basement where all our junk goes — some of it is legit, like the fake Christmas tree or children’s noodle art projects. Other items, like Grandma’s old razor, are stored out of obligation and in the dark. After all, nobody wants to think about that. Or clean it.
Family issues can be ugly. Ugly stuff goes downstairs in the room the general public doesn’t see. Nobody sees, nobody knows. Yes, the family knows, but it’s out of sight and therefore out of mind. When it does get talked about because we accidentally bumped into it while checking the furnace filter, things get awkward and painful. I don’t know about you, but I’m afraid of pain. Pain=fear=motivated to keep it quiet and not talk about it.
Our family has challenging issues. I won’t go into detail, since the specifics don’t matter, but I bet you could quickly relate to what we deal with. The dislike for awkwardness and pain keeps us away from dealing with it. But we’re a team who knows better than to avoid it.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” says 1 John 4:18. Practically speaking, it means that we intentionally difficult conversations that are naturally awkward. Awkward, but worth it, for the sake of love. Things don’t get better unless we talk. We don’t talk unless we’re ready to deal with the pain. BUT — once we remind each other that we communicate out of love and not fear, the air gets cleared. Love becomes the motivator. Christ remains at the center, and his light pierces the darkness.
I saw a quote from Trevor Hudson that resonated with what we’re talking about. He wrote “There is no lasting peace without effort.” Couldn’t agree more. We always have a choice of which path to take. The path to peace — where we lovingly work through issues — is thorny at first, but leads to health. I won’t tell you where the other one leads, because you already know. Yes, Grandma’s razor.
I knew we hit a milestone as a family team when one of us (besides me) said “families can either ignore this stuff or have difficult conversations and get better, so let’s get better.”
Bingo — the Lord being our helper.