The hardest thing to say to a family member

I was wrong

The hardest thing for you to say to a family member is probably not:

“Isn’t this fun!”

“Please pass the beets.”

“Yes, I took out the garbage.”

When something is fun, or lighthearted, or informational, or you get credit, it’s easy to say it.

As unpleasant as it is, it’s also probably not hard to say:

“I can’t believe you said that!”

“You NEVER give me credit for anything!”

“I hate you!”

Those things can come out naturally, without trying. No thinking or effort required. They burst out driven by your emotions. You have to work to NOT say them.

You might find it harder to say:

“You are soooo good at that!”

“I need you.”

“You make my life better.”

Why is it easier to say something in anger than it is to say something that builds someone up? This is where we get a clue to a nasty default built into us: judging others and demanding justice of others comes naturally. We’re born selfish and judgmental. No child needs to be taught to say “mine!” or “no fair!”

Your hardest thing to say would be different from mine. But whatever it is, I’ll bet it requires humility.

Here’s the hardest thing for me to say to a family member. Yours might be something like it:

“You were right. I was wrong.”

More and more with my wife Brenda, I seem to be wrong. I’m getting really good at it. Shouldn’t I be getting better and better at being right? Maybe I am, but I guess she’s getting better at being right faster than I am.

Being wrong gets your attention. The more convinced you were that the other person was wrong, the harder it is to backtrack. Backtracking is not fun. The more you backtrack, the more sensitive you are to overconfidence. Sensitivity to overconfidence is good.

“I’m sorry” is much easier for me to say than

“You were right. I was wrong.”

Both parts together are the kicker. You de-exalt yourself while exalting the other one over you. This goes against everything built into you at birth.

But it goes WITH everything put into you through your faith in Jesus.

In humility count others more significant than yourselves – Philippians 2.3

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble – James 4.6

Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted – Luke 18.14

Being right is fun. Being humble is godly.

What’s the hardest thing for you to say to a family member?


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About the Author


Gary Morland helps you feel better about your most challenging family relationships, and helps you actually improve those relationships - all by adopting simple attitudes, perspectives, expectations, and actions (the same ones that changed him and his family).


  1. m

    For me, it’s hard to NOT say anything! (If that makes sense) I’m working on it… always desiring to be as Christ-like as possible, while making sure my heart’s motive is right:) Love those scriptures as well…some of my favorite! Enjoyed this, thank you:)
    Blessings & <3

  2. lyricpdx

    Two things:
    1. When you say “You were right, I was wrong” to someone, wow, what a gift you are giving them! Imagine how you would feel if someone said that to you after a verbal tussle. Wouldn’t that feel good? I don’t mean in a snotty way, but in a validating way. And it feels good to be validated.
    2. The more often you say “You were right, I was wrong” the easier it gets. Really, it does. And you know what else? When you do that in your family, and they start getting used to it, they become quicker to forgive you. I think it has something to do with this–as you become used to admitting your mistakes, you become more comfortable with it and less defensive, and that in turn makes the other person less defensive…and the two of you become more “real” with each other, and feel safer.

  3. Debbie Fields

    Ouch! I think you “hit the nail on the head” (old saying my father used). It truly goes against all within SELF to be so humble as to admit we are wrong and another is right. Your posts are always so helpful. This is definitely one area I need to work on.

    • it all started with that bad stuff back in the garden, didn’t it – thx

  4. debi

    Gary I would love to share this on my blog, may I ? I think so many need to read this….

  5. Aly

    I have been married 33 years. I’m not sure how much I’ve learned, but when I think of what is difficult to say to a person (what’s easy, what I won’t, might, could, and would like to), one question comes to mind…. or I try to silently ask it first.

    Who is this good for? Does it benefit me to say it, ask it, declare it, do it, etc?

    Does it benefit my husband…?

    Or, more important, does it benefit the relationship? I’t a whole third entitym you know. There’s him. There’s me and there’s “it”.

    My son and his wife had to decide whether to live close to his work or to her work. One easier for him, one for her, but the real issue is “What’s best for the marriage?”

    It kind of ticks me off that I’m so late in learning the best answer is not always the thing that makes me the happiest. And even harder, that if I do it right – in the end if it’s the relationship I genuinely care about – it will be exactly that. We both win when “it” wins.

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