How did you get along with your in-laws at this year’s annual Easter lunch or dinner gathering? Was it easy or challenging? If it was easy, then you have nothing but good thoughts, but if it was challenging, then you are probably having to work through some frustrating or hurtful emotions. How can you do this in a healthy way?
1. Take a Deep Breath
James 1:19-20 – Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Everyone has his or her own immediate and natural response when being challenged by others. In-laws can make it especially challenging because you tend to experience it over and over again. Scripture is very clear that our first response can have a major impact on how things turn out. In other words, if your anger results in extended discussions about a person and how wrong they are, it will only escalate the situation and make matters worse.
Remember hurt people hurt people and if we aren’t quick to stop, slow down, and take a deep breath then we are at risk! The goal is to keep our emotions in check and contained. Venting will simply fan the flame of frustration or injury and infect others in the process. So if you have to talk or vent, do it with the Lord. Share with God your emotions and what you’re feeling. Ask Him for insight and perspective and be “quick to listen”. Slowing down, taking a deep breath, and praying will always take you from a bad place to a good place. This will prepare you for any positive next steps.
2. Take Responsibility
Romans 12:18 – If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
One of the fastest ways to stall a challenging relationship is to always make other people wrong. Even though it may be justified or feel right to do, it never moves a relationship forward. In fact, when we always make others wrong, not only do we hinder progress but we also allow for bitterness to take root.
Scripture says that the goal isn’t to make others responsible, but to take responsibility for yourself and anyway you may have contributed to a challenging situation. Every relationship has two sides to the coin. What does your side reveal? How have you contributed to the challenge? How could you have said the wrong thing or taken things the wrong way? “So far as it depends on you”, how can you make the relationship better? We can be really good at defining next steps for others, but what about you? When we don’t take responsibility, we can be tempted to find resolve in avoidance and duplicity, “acting” like everything is okay, when it isn’t.
Therefore, it is important to take responsibility and ask the Lord to show you how you need to change the next time you get together with that challenging in-law. Remember the goal isn’t to determine what is fair but to prevent relating from a place of hurt. This is what it means to be humble, compassionate, and wanting the best for others (Ephesians 4:2-3). This is what it means to be like Jesus (see my blog post, How to Handle Struggling Friendships)!
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