If you have ever seen the movie “Lilo & Stitch,” you might remember a scene in which Nani and Lilo talk after they get into a fight. In that scene, Nani apologizes to Lilo for yelling at her and Lilo responds with, “We’re sisters, it’s our job.” Even though it might seem like a cute, little line from a Disney movie, it actually hits really close to home.
Is it really our job though?
I don’t know about you, person reading this right now, but I constantly argue with my siblings. Actually, the people I argue and fight with the most are my family: my parents, siblings, close cousins, and those friends who have become family. A majority of the people I know have the same problem, and it’s kind of weird if you really think about it… Why are we meanest to the people we love the most? The ones we’d be truly afraid to lose?
I think part of the answer comes precisely from the same reason it’s a problem: love. We fight the most with the people we love because we know they love us back. They’re the people you know you’re stuck with no matter what happens, especially if it’s your siblings and/or parents. Parents have this innate protectiveness toward their children and love them unconditionally, no matter how many times their child rebels. Similarly, your sibling will never stop being your sibling or stop loving you no matter how horrible the fight.
Have you ever been in a fight with your sibling, but they defend you relentlessly the moment you get picked on by someone outside of your family circle? It’s because of love. For this reason, they become these “safe targets” we often reveal our worst selves to, knowing they won’t run away, even if we constantly argue with them and hurt their feelings.
However, should we still continue to bicker and fight with them just because we know they won’t leave us?
Love is often defined as “willing the good of the other.” When we love someone, in an authentic and true way, we will their good. We want their joy and happiness. We ultimately want what’s best for them. The trouble with constantly fighting with the ones you love, knowing they won’t stop loving you, is that this “love” doesn’t justify your bad behavior. If there are other things bothering you and you relentlessly take them out on those closest to you, you’re not loving them the way they deserve. Hurting someone you know will forgive you is inexcusable.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta said that if we wish to change the world, we have to go home and love our family. This is easier said than done — especially when the love/hate habits in our families feel like they’re so ingrained in us that they could never change. I personally struggle with this everyday, so to help you make a first step, here are my top five tips to help you bicker with your loved ones less:
Look to their virtues, not their flaws.
So often we get caught up in the negative and forget to see the good. Don’t focus all of your energy on their negative traits. When you find yourself wanting to bicker about or pick a fight over something your relative does that annoys you, pause and think about one of the things you love about them. You might still be annoyed, but the tone of voice in which you speak to them will change from bickering to conversational.
Thank God for putting them in your life.
Although it seems cheesy, it’s when we are grateful to God in prayer that we are more appreciative of those around us. This can also be shown by saying “thank you.” You’d be surprised how rarely we thank our family members, so doing it makes them feel all the more appreciated and loved. You can even write a little note and leave it somewhere for your family member to find as a nice surprise for their day!
Do something nice for the person you fight with the most.
Whether it’s mom, dad, brother, or sister, show them you appreciate and love them. Small gestures and acts of kindness go a long way in making love seen. It can be as simple as clearing your dad’s plate after dinner or as elaborate as doing your sister’s chores when you know she has a lot of homework.
It can be so hard to pray with your family, especially if it’s not something you’re used to, but it is possible! Start with something small, like saying grace before dinner if it’s not something you normally do, or a little more elaborate like praying the rosary together once a week. Inviting God to be the center of your family increases love in ways you can’t even imagine.
Always say you’re sorry.
Sometimes we let our ego get in the way, but asking for forgiveness can help our relationship with our loved ones in profound ways. Practicing it in small moments — like after raising your voice in a conversation with your mom — makes it easier to do it in the bigger moments — like when you call a sibling a mean name. Apologizing is never easy, but it is a necessary part of loving our family.
I sincerely hope these tips help you show your “safe targets” just how much you love and appreciate them. It’s normal to struggle and you are definitely not alone in this battle, but God calls us to love, and to love in an authentic way, and He gives us the grace to do so when we ask for it.
In 1 John 3:18 we read, “Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.” My prayer for each of us is that we allow God to transform our hearts, so that we may show our family how much we love them — with more than just words — with actions of love and not of conflict.