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When Family Conflicts Happen (Part 1)

December 9, 2016

Another Way for week of December 9, 2016

When Family Conflicts Happen (Part 1)

Family conflicts can be very painful. They strike to the core of our being. And unfortunately, they often flare at holiday time—when far flung families come together for several days. Friction crops up.

This true story did not happen at Christmas but it could have. My father was still living and our children were small. My parents came for a visit and spent a couple days with us. They experienced with us the normal rub and bickering of family life. But I didn’t realize how my father was taking the squabbling, a man who always encouraged us to kiss and make up, even when we didn’t feel like it. He was maybe especially sensitive to arguments involving his baby daughter. Me.

Mom and Dad went with us to church on Sunday morning and we did as we always do: passed the peace to others sitting near us, shaking hands. Stuart passed the peace to my father and I don’t know what Dad said back, but we were to find out later that day that the “peace” expressed by my husband hadn’t set well with Dad.


Dad reading his Bible on a 1964 family camping trip in the Rockies.

It was early Sunday evening and we were outside while the children were occupied inside. My dad addressed Stuart saying, “When you passed me the peace this morning, did you really mean it?”

Stuart said something like yeah, sure.

My dad was ready. “Well I don’t see how you can pass the peace when you have said things like you’ve said.” Apparently they’d exchanged words while working on a project that weekend. He also thought Stuart spoke too sharply to me—and I wasn’t even aware of it.

Stuart was stunned. I was smitten to the core. I hadn’t even thought about any harsh words. My husband was speechless—which is unusual for him.

I spoke up, defending my dear husband to my dear dad. Not an easy place to be. Mom started humming which is what she does when there’s a conflict; Stuart just listened, while I stated my piece.

In the end, it was probably good for my dad to air his issue, and we all survived. My husband had always thought a lot of my dad—loved him and enjoyed spending guy time with him, living as he did in our family of all girls. My parents plus Stuart and I went on to all love each other happily ever after, but that evening was not very comfortable. Having situations that need reconciliation are painful.

I was never the same again when it came to passing the peace between Dad and my husband—and it helped me really think about those words when we do pass the peace.

Family conflicts make me think of the story of Joseph in Genesis and his conflicts with his brothers, which came about primarily because of the favoritism his father, Jacob, showed for Joseph. Some of that stemmed back to Jacob’s own father-in-law, Laban, who tricked Jacob into marrying the oldest daughter, Leah, first. Joseph just happened to be one of the sons from Jacob’s beloved second wife, Rachel. Jacob had worked 14 long years to marry Rachel. Then Rachel was barren for many years until Joseph was born to them. That Joseph was doted on by Jacob was no fault of the boy. Family relationships are complicated. We’ll finish my reflections on this story in my column next week.


Healthy relationships: my mother and my oldest daughter enjoying conversation.

Memories of conflict you’d like to share? Email me at or write to Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, Va. 22850.





Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books, most recently Whatever Happened to Dinner. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  


Or post your shareable memories–or the takeaways–right here!


  1. Craig Anderson permalink

    Thanks, Melodie, for your wisdom and for your vulnerability.

  2. Sharing the peace is a lot like making peace, something I had to do between two “warring” parties in my family which would have resulted in those people being absent from our Christmas table. A broken family circle would equate to catastrophe in my mind.

    I got on the phone with both individually and I remember they each made an effort to be present. Golly, I don’t remember what I said but one thing I’m sure of: my remarks came from God not from my own clever devisings.

    These words stand out in your poignant story: Mom started humming which is what she does when there’s a conflict. 🙂

  3. Marian always picks out the line that jumps out at me too. 🙂 It’s such a good representation of conflict avoidance. And my mother is a hummer.

    My mother hums all the time though, so I don’t think it’s a defense mechanism. Just a habit. Whistling softly has entered the scene now, too.

    But seriously, yes. Family conflicts are tragic. Family peacemakers are a blessing.

    • This experience helps me also feel how my children and their spouses may feel if I take up an issue with them. 🙂 Remembering my extreme angst at being in the middle was a great lesson. I loved Marian’s example of family peacemaking. Not easy to do!

      And I love hearing about your humming mother. Overall, Momma is a singer; we always knew everything was right with the world when we’d hear mom singing as she worked around the house.

  4. Yes, Mom’s humming is classic and I don’t think she’s alone. The holy spirit gave you the words to speak, just as someone back there in the Bible promised! Thanks for your story–great real life example.

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