Conflict & Your Family Tree
All families have arguments and disagreements; no surprise there. After all, families are made up of people…“fallen” people with different ideas, different viewpoints, different weaknesses, different temperaments, different tastes, even different priorities. This leads to disagreements and, on our worst days, maybe even yelling and name-calling. But did you know that those disagreements, arguments, and fights prepare the soil of our hearts for an orchard? That’s right, whether they escalate or not, disagreements and arguments lead to hard feelings…and those feelings are like seeds waiting to be sown in the soil of our hearts.
When I encounter an argument, a disagreement, or some conflict with a family member, I face a choice. I can harbor those hard feelings. I can ruminate over things said in anger and sow seeds of resentment. I can assume the worst about my family and nurse feelings of bitterness that will eventually take root and branch out in anger and hostility toward everyone I meet. Seeds of bitterness grow into branches of resentment that filter how I see the world. Everything I see through the branches of resentment will only seem to justify my anger and support my bitterness. My relationships will suffer. Friends will begin to avoid me and my bitter sarcasm will push those who persist in relating to me away. In addition, research suggests that bitterness impacts our immune system and even organ functioning, leading to physical disease. In other words, my choice to harbor and sow seeds of bitterness and resentment will contribute to physical disease, relational sickness, and spiritual decay. Not the best choice.
My other choice is to sow seeds of forgiveness. Rather than blame the other person, I can accept responsibility for the part I played in the disagreement. Instead of focusing on the perceived hurt, I can recall seeds of blessing that I have received from family members in the past. When I want to plant seeds of bitterness, I can sow words of love, encouragement, and affection instead. Eventually, generations of kin will gather under the shade of forgiveness to celebrate family. The branches of forgiveness grow strong and children will enjoy climbing high into the tree to perceive the world from new heights and a clearer, more encompassing perspective. The exercise of climbing to new heights of forgiveness and experiencing ever increasing perspectives also strengthens our heart and nurtures our relationships. In fact, relationships thrive as families eat under the tree of forgiveness, feasting on the fruits of restored relationships, kindness, empathy, and love. These fruits of forgiveness enhance our immune system and calm our stress. In other words, my choice to forgive contributes to physical health, relational strength, and spiritual integrity.
I don’t know about you, but the choice seems clear. As for me and my house, we plant seeds of forgiveness.