Letting Your Family Off the Hook of Perfection
Your sister won’t stop borrowing your clothes without asking.
You’re sure your brother was adopted from a den of bears because of his habit of leaving food and garbage everywhere.
Your dad is too strict.
Your mom is too busy.
I could go on and on, and I’m sure you can, too.
All of us desperately need Jesus’ help to say “no” to ungodliness and “yes” to treating others like Jesus would
Sure, we love our families, but they also get on our nerves sometimes. Whether a result of minor irritations or deep wounds, it can be really tough to see the best in the people who live under your roof. But I’m going to propose that you let the members of your family off the hook of perfection and extend a heaping pile of grace instead. Here are five reasons why.
1. Perfection isn’t an option.
In the history of humanity, there has only ever been one perfect human, and He doesn’t live at your house. Jesus was the only sinless man who ever lived (1 Peter 2:22). The rest of us have to chronically struggle with our sin nature, that part of us that gravitates toward selfishness, anger, and bitterness.
- Your dad cannot be the perfect dad.
- Your mom cannot be the perfect mom.
- Your sister cannot be the perfect sister.
- Your brother cannot be the perfect brother.
All of us desperately need Jesus’ help to say “no” to ungodliness and “yes” to treating others like Jesus would (Titus 2:11–12). Since Jesus responds to our sin with grace, shouldn’t we respond to others’ sin with grace, too?
2. Shrapnel is guaranteed.
Sin hurts the sinner and often, those the sinner loves. Since we live in close proximity to our family and interact with them so often, they are sure to get hit with the inevitable shrapnel our sin causes. Likewise, we will be wounded by the effect of their sin.
The strain that sin causes in our families reminds us of our desperate need for the gospel.
When we see the gory impact of sin firsthand, it is tempting to hate the sinner. Instead let’s ask Jesus for help to hate the sin. The strain that sin causes in our families reminds us of our desperate need for the gospel. Left on our own, we just go around wounding each other all the time. But Jesus has made a way for us to be transformed into a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). Through the power of His Spirit, He changes us and our families to be more and more like Him (1 Cor. 11:1).
3. “Get along” is God’s idea.
The first Bible verse I taught my young sons to memorize is this:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Rom. 12:18).
Focus in on that middle section. The one between the commas . . .
“So far as it depends on you.”
That means stop making lists of everything your family members are doing to rock the boat. Stop pointing fingers in everyone else’s direction. Do everything in your power to get along.
4. Remember what love is.
At the end of the day, the people who get under your skin the most are also the people you’d likely jump in front of a bus to protect. They’re your tribe, your people. You may not always like them, but you do love them. So picture their faces as you take in this refresher about what love is and isn’t.
Love is not:
- resentful (Taken from 1 Corinthians 13:4–7.)
There aren’t any prerequisites for this kind of love. We don’t treat people this way only if they give us what we want when we want it, stay out of our personal space, or remember to put their dishes in the sink. If you truly love your family, memorize and live this list.
5. Forgiveness unlocks your cell.
My favorite quote on forgiveness is, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I’ve also heard it said this way, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
Holding on to bitterness, anger, and resentment toward your family hurts you most of all.
Holding on to bitterness, anger, and resentment toward your family hurts you most of all. It poisons our heart and locks us in a cage of our own making. Jesus was looking out for us when He said this:
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:21–22).
Being in a family provides plenty of opportunities to seek and extend forgiveness. Take them!
Let Them Down Gently
Have you been hanging your parents or siblings on an invisible hook of perfection? Do you keep a running list of all the ways they’ve failed you in your head? If so, gently lower them off the hook, wad the list up, and throw it away.
You may not have the perfect family. None of us do. But you do have a chance to frequently ask for and extend forgiveness, to love sacrificially like Christ has loved you, and to extend heaping piles of grace to the faces around your breakfast table. Will you take it?
By Erin Davis