How often have I said, “Girls, stop arguing,” or “Stop fighting”? If it was not the TV, it was the chair they all wanted, or sitting by the window in the car. It was amazing how my three daughters could be so loving to each other at one time, and yet so antagonistic in another situation.
I tried various tactics: separating them for a while, taking away the desired item so no one had it, reasoning, praying with them, or having them try to work it out together until each was content. All of this worked to some degree and taught them good techniques, but later on I would find I was dealing with the bickering all over again.
I prayed, “God, how can I teach my girls to be more loving and good friends with each other?” Well, the next time a conflict happened God gave me an idea which we followed. He prompted me to have them read I Corinthians 13:8-13 together. These were verses they had memorized at school, which was a plus! My husband prayed for the Lord to direct our time together. Next we had each girl tell where she failed to show love to the other. (No one was allowed to say how the others had failed!) As we read through the passage, we realized that our youngest did not understand some of the terms, so my husband explained them. It was exciting to see as we read the passage how each truly focused on where she fell short in showing love to the others, and asked for forgiveness. Each girl was quiet while the others confessed and was satisfied when they were done. My husband Joe and I were amazed and thrilled that each girl was able to see, with only the Holy Spirit’s help, how she had not shown love to the other two sisters. They did not miss one fault! Not only were all three truly happy when we were done, but we had peace in the home for a long time afterwards.
But this wore off. I had to deal with it again one day when Joe was gone. This time the Lord guided me to have them read the I Corinthians 13 passage to themselves separately. The results were:
- Each girl recognized her part in the problem and admitted that it was not all the other person’s fault.
- Since the sister involved admitted her own fault, each felt the apology was more sincere.
- It stopped the “blame/defend myself” game we always seemed to have.
Later I did ask them separately to do the following:
- Reread the Scripture passage, listing how you failed to show love in this situation.
- Write down what you do every day that says “I love you” to each of your sisters.
- Write down some things that your sisters could do for you that would speak love to you.
- List the top 5 shows, with the day and hour, which are most important to you (since, in this case, the conflict was over which TV shows to watch).
In this way they could learn how to give and take in handling squabbles. I also had them repeat I Corinthians 13:8-13 out loud again to us.
This seemed to take the girls to the next level of learning the steps in resolving conflict without my involvement. Here are the long-range goals I hoped for:
- That they would do this on their own with their sisters and friends,
- That this would become routine in their thinking process during any conflict,
- That they would be role models to their friends of godly ways of conflict solving,
- That each would recognize her own areas of lack of love in a potential conflict and ask Jesus to fill her with His love, enabling her to lovingly respond, and
- That each would be better able to have a healthy, close relationship with the man God might give them someday, and to be an example to their children if blessed in this way.
Have my girls learned all these things? No, but we see progress! We see that they are heading in the right direction. Conflicts are coming further and further apart, and the Lord is working in specific areas in each girl’s life. We praise God for His insight and work, and we let the girls know we are proud of how they are growing into godly young ladies.
Please note: The first time we did this, it took a long time. If you decide to do this, choose a time when you can put everything else aside, no matter how long it takes to go through the process. Remember, it will be faster each time you do it.
As a further exercise, you might spend time during a family devotional time or at a meal or during a car ride thinking about one aspect of love, e.g., patience.
- Discuss or look up its meaning.
- Ask them for examples of someone in the Bible who demonstrates this.
- Ask if someone has showed this specific aspect of love to them and how much it meant to them.
- Have young kids draw something depicting patience.
- Ask each member of the family to tell how he or she showed patience to someone that particular day or week.
- You could share about a time when you failed to show this love and what you needed to do differently the next time.
Be creative and let God lead you. But most of all, pray, and be an example yourself of someone who is in the process of growing more like Jesus. Remember, it is OK to be in process—each of us needs to be continually growing in the Lord until we go home to be with Him!