There are ways to be a help and not a hinderance when it comes to bringing peace and harmony to your home.
There is no such thing as a family without disagreements. Even in the Holy Family, Mary and Joseph must have had difficulties understanding each other at times. All the more so in our families of sinners. The family is often where we experience the most, and the most painful, confrontations. Why is this? Because we love each other, because love makes us vulnerable, and because shared daily life puts this love to the test: it is difficult, if not impossible, to hide one’s annoyances and grudges when we live together 24 hours a day.
Not all fights are serious. It is not necessarily desirable to try to avoid them. A “good” domestic quarrel is better than a silence full of unspoken words, and fights between siblings can be beneficial — provided, of course, that these quarrels lead to forgiveness, even in the case of minor incidents. Hundreds of small unforgiven clashes weigh as heavily as a serious quarrel. It is often small things that, when they accumulate, lead to rupture. In addition to the benign conflicts, others can cause dramatic rifts: divorce, of course, but also deep-seated quarrels between parents and children, brother and sister, aunt and nephew, and so on.
Whether as actors or spectators of these ruptures, we always have the choice of either being peacemakers or throwing oil on the fire. Naturally, we cannot forgive in place of someone else (for example, a spouse deceived by his or her partner or a parent betrayed by a child), but our attitude can help the two move towards forgiveness and reconciliation or, on the contrary, maintain animosity between them.
Peace can be found in prayer
Many family conflicts are greatly aggravated by unwelcome comments, hasty judgments, gossip, and slander. “I blame my stepfather for being violent with his children,” says Brigitte. But I realized that by not forgiving him, I am preventing my husband from forgiving; by a thousand little reflections, by bitter words, I maintain his resentment.” To spread peace, you have to start by being at peace. A mother anguished by her son-in-law’s infidelities will not be able to help her daughter reconcile with her husband. It is normal for this mother to suffer for her daughter, but as long as she is dominated by anger, she can only make things worse.
Peace, so difficult to attain in such circumstances, can be found in prayer. It is in the heart of the One who understands everything and can do everything, that we must throw away our sorrow, our revolts, our hateful thoughts, our desires for revenge. Only God can calm our inner storms and root us in His peace. Then, clothed in His gentleness, we can listen without judging and sympathize without taking sides.
Building family peace by not getting involved in the quarrels of others
Discretion is also an excellent way to contribute to peace. Discretion does not mean concealment, but caution. When living in a situation of conflict, it is important to find “a heart that listens.” But how can a person speak out if they are afraid of having their words repeated to everyone around them? What is entrusted to us, what we witness, does not necessarily have to be made known to the whole family, even if the curiosity of the family is inspired by authentic affection. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to show us what we can and must say, and to whom. The difficulty, in fact, is knowing how to speak—some silences are dreadfully toxic—but only to do so wisely, and always in a kind way.
Likewise, we should intervene directly only if it is appropriate. One way to build family peace is to stay out of quarrels that do not involve us personally. Listening, welcoming, consoling: yes! Perhaps give the contact information of a particular priest or expert. And pray, of course, in good times and bad. But, on the other hand, we should accept our powerlessness, recognizing that we are not necessarily in the best position to give advice. The most important thing is not to do things for those who quarrel, but to be at their side, as a testimony to unconditional love and unfailing hope.