When I am in the middle of a blowout conflict with one of my sons, I am squarely focused on his disobedience, his bad attitude, his irresponsibility. Obviously, the entire reason why we are in this situation is that he dropped the ball or was disrespectful. Rarely is a family conflict 100 percent the fault of one person and 0 percent the fault of the other. Normally, when two sinful people are in conflict, both have contributed some sin along the way. I have lost track of the number of times I have needed to circle around with one of my children after an argument and ask their forgiveness for my harshness, impatience, or failure to listen. The conflict may have started with his disobedience, but it was made worse by my anger.
Sometimes my harsh spirit toward my kids is not even the result of something specific they have done wrong but simply behaviors and patterns that annoy me. My seventeen-year-old son, JD, is a man of few words. I, as you might expect, am a man of many words. JD would err on the side of talking too little, and myself too much. This personality difference can cause friction in our relationship. This is not an issue of right and wrong. It is easy for me to slip into a mode where the solution to the problem is to get JD to use more words. The more urgent need is for me to pray and ask God to change my heart and give me a spirit of acceptance for JD’s more laid-back personality. We too quickly equate personality patterns with character problems.
Some of our conflicts at home stem from simple personality differences, while many are caused by sinful attitudes and actions. We are quick to judge our family members, as we easily see their character problems and bad behavior, yet we are slow to judge ourselves and are often blind to our own toxic attitudes and harmful actions. Jesus challenges each one of us on this common pattern.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Jesus doesn’t hold back. He goes so far as to say the reality of the situation may be that your brother’s sin is far smaller than yours. Ouch! But the point here is not trying to figure out who is to blame, or who is more at fault. Jesus wants us to deal with our issues first. The problem is, we all have these things called blind spots, so we need to pray and ask God to open our eyes to see how we have contributed, and are contributing, to the broken relationship. Your prayer may sound something like this:
Lord, I know that my conflict with ________ (the name of your family member) is not all his/her fault. I know I have made things worse with my actions and attitudes. I also admit that I struggle with focusing all my thoughts and feelings on what he/she has done to hurt me. I don’t want to be like the person Jesus talked about, who obsesses over the speck in his brother’s eye while ignoring the log in my own eye. Please show me everything I have done to hurt ________. Bring to my mind the things I have said that have hurt ________ and made our conflict worse. (Then as the Lord brings those things to mind) I confess these things to you as sin. I was wrong. I need your forgiveness, through Christ, before I seek forgiveness from ________. Please work in my heart so that I am paying more attention to my part in this conflict, not his/her part.
An excerpt from “Healing Family Relationships” by Rob Rienow: