If you are like most people, you have a high opinion of your preferences and perspectives. Thus, you think that the way you do things is the best way to do them. This is positive in many respects, as you would not want to spend too much time with someone who carried out plans and projects they deemed incorrect. However wrong they may be, at least they think their ideas are good. The downside of this reality is the inevitable conflict that arises in families and close associations when there exists a conflict of preferences and perspectives. You then have two or more people lobbying extensively for their own version of what is best.
I have discovered that many of the interpersonal conflicts in families begin with those attempting (advertently or inadvertently, although this is sometimes hard to differentiate) to remake others into their own image. For example, if one member of the family is certain that a messy room does not deter productive work, others will be hard pressed to convince him otherwise. Likewise, a neat freak can overemphasize the value of “everything in its place” to the point that a state of “cold war” exists within the household. We’d do well to realize that we are not all the same.
When our predominant standard for what is right and what is wrong proceeds out of our own minds, we are likely to incite disagreements. This is not to suggest that everyone doing their own thing is a solution. We must utilize the very practical nature of God’s Word in preventing upset and rancor. Getting everyone on the “same page” when it comes to rules and practices (established by those in authority) should give way to allowing each person latitude in how these are carried out. Those establishing the rules must not fall into the temptation that the only way to carry out a task is their way. It is important to realize that in areas not specifically delineated in Scripture, while our ideas may be laudable, we must be willing to allow others the chance to accept or reject our point of view.
How many divorces have occurred because the husband and wife weren’t willing to allow their spouse the freedom to be who they are? How many grown children and parents remain at odds because one party can’t move beyond, “That’s not how I think this should be done”? We’d all be better off in taking a step back and asking ourselves if our issue with others is that they are at war with God or they are at war with our preferences.
In looking back at the all-too-many battles I’ve engaged in with members of my family, I realize that, in most cases, I proceeded with the assumption that if I couldn’t change them I was not living out my faith. After all, wasn’t it my duty to correct the errors of their ways? The problem with that perspective is that I wasn’t always right in my assessment. And even when I was, I was still elevating my preferences to the level of the gospel truth.
We can spend fruitless time attempting to remake those in our life in our own image. We’d be better served to assess their strengths and weaknesses so that we can help them achieve the desired result of furthering the Kingdom of God. To quote the author John Buchan: You may have success if you do not demand victory.