We’ve all heard the saying that no man is an island. Even the most introverted of people have
their own social circle of friends, colleagues, schoolmates, etc. However, this doesn’t mean it’s
always easy to get along with others. In fact, even Romans 12:18 acknowledges this difficulty:
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."
It’s even more challenging if the person we don’t see eye to eye with is a family member.
For some, dealing with difficult family members is something they’ve all but given up on. To
avoid conflict altogether, many pretend that whoever’s being difficult doesn’t exist. Even if they
live in the same house, they don’t talk. Some grab every chance to skip going on a holiday with
While coping with difficult family members can seem tough, it’s not impossible. Yes, it can be
exhausting to constantly weather domestic drama, but giving up altogether hardly solves
anything. If you’re willing to take the first step to peace and reconciliation, here’s how to deal
with difficult family members with some grace and guidance from God’s Word:
Listen to What They’re Really Saying
Because we don’t want to get into another argument, we have the tendency to just ignore
whatever a difficult family member says. After all, it can seem like all they do is complain,
belittle, or instigate fights.
Have we ever taken a step back to really listen to what they’re saying — or not saying — with
open hearts and minds?
One of the reasons people can be difficult is because they’re hurt. They try to keep their pain
buried inside. When it becomes too overwhelming to contain, they tend to take it out on the
people closest to them — their family.
This doesn’t excuse their actions, but if we start listening with an open heart and mind, we might
just be able to decipher what they’re trying to say — which is often a cry for help.
Galatians 6:2 reminds us: “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” In truly
listening, we may be able to reach out, commiserate with that pain, and take steps towards
understanding one another.
Don’t Lash Out
Proverbs 15:18 offers some timely wisdom: “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is
slow to anger quiets contention.”
While it’s tempting to “fight fire with fire,” what good would it do to respond this way when a
difficult family member lashes out? It just makes the situation even more difficult — not just for
you but for everyone around you both.
Instead of lashing out as a difficult family member would, respond with patience, kindness, and
grace. We only have to look at Jesus to know how powerful this type of response is. Resist the
temptation to bring yourself down to their level as it can only make matters worse.
Avoid Certain Topics
Sometimes, we feel the urge to retaliate at a difficult family member by bringing up topics that
we know could hurt them. We might say something passive-aggressive just to rile them up. In
some cases, it’s not even intentional — we just end up being careless because we don’t care for
that family member as much as we should.
To this, Proverbs 16:18 has to say: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a
It’s not “losing” to sometimes avoid certain topics that can cause conflict. Facing an issue head-
on isn’t the only approach — and it isn’t always the right one. For relationships to mend, you
need to take some time away from mentioning those issues. If nobody’s ready to talk about it in
a healthy, constructive way, then you might as well leave it for another day.
Learn to Forgive
Among all the Bible verses about difficult family relationships, Luke 17:3-4 might be the most
important — but also the most forgotten:
"Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive
him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times,
saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Forgiveness is perhaps the hardest thing to do with a difficult family member precisely because
they’re family; the hurtful things they do or say has a stronger impact on us than when a
stranger does it. Since the pain can run deep, we can’t find it in ourselves to forgive them even if
they’ve apologized. In breaking our trust, we now regard them with suspicion. We tend to think
that their apologies are just excuses for them to argue with us or hurt us again.
Who are we to judge their intentions? Keep in mind that forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to
forget what they did. We can remember hurtful words and actions all we want, but that doesn’t
mean we shouldn’t forgive them as God forgives our sins every single day.
Pray for Them
Whether we like it or not, a difficult family member is still family. When we can’t seem to solve
conflicts on our own, maybe the best tactic is to pray that God will open their eyes to the hurt
they may be causing. At the same time, we can pray that God will grant us the patience,
courage, fortitude, and love to take steps toward understanding and reconciliation. After all,
Proverbs 10:12 says: "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses."
We can’t choose our family, but we can choose to love and forgive them despite everything
they’ve done — just as God constantly chooses to love and forgive us despite our sins.
Choosing love is not always the easiest route, but compared to hatred, grudges, and
condemnation, love brings us closer to that day when we could all get along.
See you next week,