When we’re young, our ideas and opinions are, for the most part, just simplified version of those of our parents.
But as we grow into adulthood, one of the most difficult transitions we undertake is the separation of certain beliefs from our parents. Not everyone experiences this distinction from their parents, but I’d say a majority do. I know I did and I still have some beliefs that are very different from my parents.
So, how do we go about disagreeing with our parents while also keeping the commandment to “honor thy father and mother”? Here are five things to keep in mind when we face disagreements with our parents:
They argue because they care about you
Parents hope their children eventually hold on to the values they instill in them into adulthood. It’s part of the genetic bond between a parent and child. So it’s natural that when they feel there’s a threat to this bond, they begin to grow fearful, even toward your spiritual state.
As hard as this might be to believe sometimes, your parents do really want the best for you. Despite their own shortcomings, they argue with you because they care about the values they’ve instilled in you. If they didn’t care about you, they wouldn’t be arguing with you about your convictions at all.
You still have many years ahead of you
“We never know the love of a parent till we become parents ourselves.” – Henry Ward Beecher
This thought might make your eyes roll, but think about the person you were five years ago. Even that person has changed. Think about 20 or 30 years ahead. You will one day be as old and wrinkly as your parents. You may even become a parent yourself. The ideals you once had will most likely change. It can help us to remember that in our youth, we may think we’re right and their wrong, but our own ideals may shift further in the future.
It’s best to remember that we can still learn from our parents, while also remembering to think critically. Part of the process of maturing is to find out how to be open-minded while still standing firm in our convictions.
Remember what brings you all together
I know for some families, gathering together can be rough. Especially if an argument lurks around every corner. However, I think that we must continually remember that we’re all fallible humans and in the end Christ calls us to be peacemakers. I believe that task must start within our own families.
So if there’s a cloud hanging over the family dining table, maybe we (the younger) should be the first to forgive and make peace where we can. Once we’ve made peace, let’s remember what brings us together—mainly, love.
In my own family, we always remember to say “sorry” and even start cracking jokes after a heated argument. Laughter and memories are a good way to break the tensions and remind ourselves what being a family is all about.
Don’t step on “verbal landmines” if you don’t have to
When parents may say something that makes you twitch, we often can feel a gut reaction to jump in and start correcting them. We must prove they’re wrong, right? Sometimes this might be right, but often times it just isn’t right. It may be more of your own pride speaking than anything else. When you’re in a family gathering, it often might be best to just shut your mouth unless absolutely necessary.
James 3:5 shows us just how much damage our words can do: “So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!”
You will know what is most likely to set your Thanksgiving on a straight course to a screaming match. So, just do your best to kill the forest fire before it starts.
Find ways to love your parents like Christ
Many times, it seems that we see the world as our mission field and the place where we should make an impact for Christ. The truth is that our family will always be our first mission field. Whether your parents are Christians or not, you are called to love them just like anyone else.
In Luke 10:25-37, a lawyer asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life and inquires “who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan. As you may recall in that story, the Samaritans and the Jews believed in some profoundly different things about God, making them enemies. But in many ways, they were family, being intermarried with and close cousins to the Jewish people. I think we can draw from this that Christ is telling us to let our actions of love speak louder than the beliefs that separate us.
My encouragement to you is that whether you are close with your parents or quite distant, remember that we love because Christ first loved us. Let His love permeate into your soul, humble yourself and you just might find that the chasm of disagreement between you and your parents isn’t so large.
Freelance writer, blogger, full-time husband and father of three. Zach is also co-founder of Theologues.com, a website for Christians to grow in learning about their faith. You can find him on Twitter or his blog.