A Baker’s Dozen to Show Grace in Troubled Relationships
John Gottman believes “91% of the time the ground is ripe for miscommunications” in a marriage. I don’t know about the percentage, but I know conflict and misunderstandings arise in every family. It is inevitable. But, have you notice that family conflict can go from bad to worse in no time? Grace gets thrown out the window and everyone involved begins to respond with anger, blame, accusations, and defensiveness. These responses lead to more anger, blame, accusations, and defensiveness. They may even result in withdrawal from the relationship and the death of a family. How can you avoid this terrible end? Respond with grace. Grace is an unmerited kindness, a favor given to someone even if they do not deserve it. When at least one person responds with grace, the outcome of the interaction will change. The people involved in the argument have a greater chance of connecting rather than pushing one another away. The argument has a greater chance of reaching a resolution. Let me share a baker’s dozen for responding with grace in the midst of troubled family relationships.
- Rather than blaming the other person, look at your own contribution to the current situation (the log in your own eye).
- Rather than making accusations, accept responsibility for your own actions and your own limited understanding.
- Rather than responding with defensiveness, respond with curiosity about the feelings and emotions of the other person.
- Rather than shutting down, communicate with the other person.
- Rather than arguing and fighting, share a friendly conversation about something that interests the other person. If some topics lead to arguments, table them for another time.
- Rather than assuming negative intent about the other person and their actions, look for the times they showed love. Assume positive intent—even in seemingly negative behavior.
- Rather than trying to control the situation or the other person, pursue an understanding of the other person.
- Rather than focus on the negative you perceive in the other, focus on what you admire and adore in them.
- Rather than trying to make the other person change or “grow,” focus on your personal growth. You are only responsible for your personal growth.
- Rather than criticizing and making accusations about the other person’s past or character, practice kindness…and give a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).
- Rather than making assumptions about the other person’s motives or intents, believe the best and simply ask what the other person wants.
- Rather than speaking in sarcasm, speak in patience and love.
- Rather than taking responsibility for the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and decision, take responsibility for yourself. You cannot make the other person happy—that is their personal responsibility. You cannot make decisions for the other person or determine how they will live—that is their personal responsibility. Let the other person take their responsibility and you take your responsibility.
Responding with grace in the midst of troubled family relationships will change, filling you with greater character and personal strength. It will change your relationship as well, filling it with greater joy and intimacy.