OK, how about even two times better?
Or what if this time next year a negative direction in your marriage was going the other way?
What if there was less friction in your mother in-law / daughter in-law thing?
Or meaningful warming in that sibling estrangement that’s gone on so long?
Or the mystery of growing kids at home wasn’t quite so mysterious? What if blended family drama no longer dominated things?
What if there was less arguing, less offenses, and less head-butting between parents and adult kids over expectations and life choices?
What if you were reconnecting with your grown daughter’s heart?
What if there was real relief in your most challenging family relationship?
What if those *certain* one or two people didn’t seem nearly as unloveable as they used to?
What if one day you realized you were hearing more laughter, seeing more generosity, and rooting for each other more often?
What if you found yourself looking forward to a family get-together without that gnawing fear in the back of your mind?
Or if you’re a mom, what if it seemed like you were actually being listened to, and you realized it had been awhile since you felt misunderstood or unappreciated?
Probably does, but where would you start? How?
You could start now
I think this time next year some of these things could definitely be true for you. Maybe more.
But it won’t be the result of button pushing, or of a formula, or following steps. It’s more nebulous, like pursuing an attitude and a perspective, and adjusting your expectations.
No one can do this for you. But someone can be your guide. I’d be glad to.
Take a few beginning steps
A few small changes can make a big difference – if they’re the right changes and you keep at them.
Progress takes time, longer than two or three weeks. And you’re the one to do the work of taking the initiative. And there are no guarantees.
Maybe the change this time next year won’t be big.
But if the change is meaningful, this can be the beginning of big changes.
If you want to take a few beginning steps NOW, scroll down
It begins with you
All that stuff you’ve heard about ‘be the change you want to see?’ It’s true.
Humans are designed to influence each other. Especially in families. That’s scary, because to be a positive influence you have to take responsibility for that influence, which is hard. But it’s good, because when you DO take responsibility, the design will automatically help you.
So, when you take responsibility, start with these two things, two simple attitudes and expectations that can begin to change everything about how you feel:
1. Accept your family, accept that person (you know the one)
Here’s what I mean by acceptance; it’s your attitude: This doesn’t have to change. You don’t have to change. I may want change, but my happiness and contentment are not dependent on you changing.
Whether it’s your whole family, or that one challenging relationship, accept them as a whole and accept each individual. Accept the reality of who they are. Desire change all you want, but don’t make your acceptance of them conditional on them meeting some criteria.
Accept them personally and accept how God seems to have created them. That doesn’t mean you approve of all their attitudes or conduct. It means you love them anyway. Each is an individual on their own personal journey and accountable to God. God is not finished yet, with them or with you.
This journey is tough enough without rejection and conditional love from the ones closest to you.
This is the same thing you want from them. This is hard to do. It’s hard for them, too, to accept you.
But this is the beginning of what Jesus did and does.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us – Romans 5.8
Expectations and desires for others are different than your personal expectations and desires. You have control over your own desires and efforts. Would it be challenging to you to have a goal to lose 30 pounds? But how much more challenging would it be if you had a goal for someone else to lose 30 pounds? And what if you made acceptance of them conditional on them losing the weight?
Now – just for example – replace the weight goal with goals like being respectful, or employed, or sober, and let’s say you won’t accept them until they change. How does that feel in your family? What if they hold back acceptance of you for their own reasons?
To be fully seen by somebody, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous – Elizabeth Gilbert
2. Accept your role (and your limits)
You role is to take the initiative no matter what others do. In a sense, it’s up to you; not the results, but the role of modeling.
You want to see more patience, kindness, and respect? Then you be patient, kinder, more respectful.
You want to see them take less offense and be less argumentative? Then take less offense and be less argumentative.
You want your family to root for each other and have a more positive attitude? You know what to do.
No, of course you can’t do it all, and you can’t be perfect, and it will take time. But you can do something, and you MUST. You can’t say, they won’t listen! You can’t say, it doesn’t do any good! You can’t say, but look how they treat me!
Their response is not your job. Your job is to model and to be an example, as imperfect as it will be, of what you want.
We are never responsible for filling anyone else’s cup. Our responsibility is to empty ours – Andy Stanley
And Jesus’ responsibility is to fill yours so you can empty it. Do you think he wants to fill it? When I keep my cup full he doesn’t fill it at all. No room for him.
When you move in the direction of accepting your family and loving unconditionally, and in the direction of accepting your role to model what you want to see, you’re walking with Jesus. This is his direction. He’s with you.
This could be worth it even if things didn’t change
More steps you could take:
Look over The Lost Tools of Family Peace. Be encouraged by noticing the ones you already use. Which ones stand out to you when you think of your family, or your most challenging family relationship?
Look at The Most-Used Tools of Family Disharmony, and be aware of their underrated deceptiveness.
Read For a Family Like Yours. It’s inspiration to help you appreciate, influence, and love the family you have (no matter what). You’ll see The Lost Tools in action, and find more attitudes and perspectives to help you begin to feel better about your family. There are 26 readings – you could read one a day, or pick and choose, or read a bunch at once.
Read Everything Fits: even if it doesn’t. If you’re dealing with any confusion, waiting, regret, or hopelessness with your family, and you wonder how things can make sense, this is for you. This short series will help you maintain faith in the face of senselessness.
AND – take advantage of any courses, webinars, coaching, or survival guides that come along here in the near future. You’ll hear about those by email. Just leave your name and email below and you’ll also get the free Ten Minute Guide to a Fun Vision Day Your Family Will Love to Repeat Year After Year. It’s an idea to help your whole family grow closer and get along better. This is the same vision day our family has enjoyed for over ten years to help us connect with and root for each other.