Family Dissension – Without Answers

I sometimes bring this letter forward from my archives because there seem to be a lot of people searching for letters to write to their own children.  Originally post October 5, 2010.

Family dissension is an everyday thing; the kind in which someone or everyone disagrees, argues, and in some strange pattern, agrees to disagree.  It’s the cold, hard, go-away-mad type of dissension that can rip a family into small bits and pieces that destroy the loving cushion for its members.

As a parent I know that I can’t heal the wounds in my family.  I can’t even tell which way to move in order not to make them deeper or more painful.   I’m writing to acknowledge my pain and the pain of each of you who are looking across the gap at people you love.

I would also like to yell, “STOP IT”.

But I don’t know how to help you do that.  I don’t know of a way to dissolve anger and hurt.  For myself I’ve found that I must truly let go from inside out.  Even then it isn’t always gone.  It can lie in wait like a partially healed cut that is ready to sting when exposed to anything corrosive or abrasive.

Anger and hurt can solidify into a hard substance which speeds like a wrecking ball through everyday life.  Sometimes I don’t see its velocity.  Sometimes I feel it whooshing by, slightly avoiding serious injury.  But I can always sense when it is there, chipping away at our family unit, crushing relationships and taking options away.

Do you remember the 40s song lyrics*, “You always hurt the one you love, the one you wouldn’t hurt at all…”?  Like dissension among those I love, I find it infinitely sad, and avoidable.

I have choices for myself.  I can choose a path of separation, which is that of least resistance; or I can choose a path of love and acceptance, which means I can have no resistance.   I can choose to be open to the life I want for myself and to all who choose differently .

I keep thinking of the Four Agreements:

Always do your best.

Don’t take anything personally.

Be impeccable with your word.

Don’t make assumptions.

These agreements are powerful and personal and can be translated to our own lives.

I urge you further:

Please love yourselves.

Please realize that most people are doing the best they can at any one time.

Please look at each other with abiding love and walk through every day with the assurance that you are loved.

Please encourage your children to love and be loved by every person in each of their families and extended families.

Please remember that our differences in opinions, interests, callings, locations and day-to-day lives are not grounds for emotional separation; instead they give us the diversity and variety to heighten our experience of family.

Family dissension is inevitable in a strong-minded, opinionated, voluble family such as our own.  It can be destructive when it is processed in an inward, protective and self-protective, easily bruised family such as our own.  We are all of these things and more. And we can work our way through.   We are a family.


*Mills Brothers, 1944


  1. As long as you can laugh at yourself, you will never cease to be amused!
    People are who they are; not what we want or wish them to be. We must work on ourselves: for the problem is within us as to why we are acting or responding in the manner in which we are.


  2. I long for peace and harmony and the 7 of us siblings to be in the same room together..It is so sad to see the years pass and the valley becoming deeper…
    It is heavy in my heart tonight as I got an unsigned hate letter from a sibling..I know who it is…while at the same time it was about me and my partner making my 92 year old mom happy at the nursing home playing music and recording her while she sang and laughed and forgot about her pain and lonliness for awhile..
    Brother Ronnie what was your point.


    • I am so sorry to hear of this rift. I will hold you in my thoughts.

      I keep a saying on my refrigerator. (I’m not always so good at keeping it in mind.)

      “Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change.” Katherine Mansfield


  3. “I have choices for myself. I can choose a path of separation, which is that of least resistance; or I can choose a path of tolerance, which is no resistance. I can choose be open to the life I want for myself.”

    Works for me too. I have however decided that instead of tolerance, I respect their own ways of living, just as I would expect them to respect mine.


    • You have a wonderful point, Ramana. Tolerance sometimes evokes the thought of distance and separation.


  4. Principally, I very much agree with what you wrote here. But nevertheless, I think there are things you can’t get through, namely when the other party doesn’t want to get through but remain the current state. I also don’t think that separation necessarily means least resistance. Sometimes separation is necessary, at least temporarily. And some people just have an astonishing lack of understanding, and unwillingness to change themselves. Then it is almost impossible. And still, it’s always hard to break up family patterns that have developed during many many years, and are well-established. Under most circumstances I think it’s worth it, though.


    • You’re right. Some relationships are not worthy of pursuit…at least at any given time. Family dynamics are hard to penetrate.


  5. I totally agree! Our family has had numerous episodes of dissension. It hurts everyone. To me COMMUNICATION with an open mind and searching within ourselves is essential. If no-one wants to be with you, is it them or is it you? I grew up in an extremely abusive family. I took lots of psychology classes and man I not only learned about ME but also the reasons behind bad behavior, severed relationships! I have grown immensely. I encourage ANYONE who is suffering through family breakdown to not only seek counseling, soul searching with an open mind but also to take some psychology courses at a local community colleges. Recently, my church has gone through a great deal of separation, disagreements so much so that the Congregational Annual Meeting was ordered by the Church Counsel as OVER CLOSED it is time to leave! Why? Because people are not listening to hurt and their feelings, not blaming or shouting but LISTEN with an open mind climb inside what the feelings of the angry the sad ones are encountering! It was so bad that we called a Pastor in from LCMC. He held numerous sessions discussing CONFLICT and RESOLUTION! It worked! Our church is on the end. No relationship is perfect but again COMMUNICATION and remember ANGER is the SECOND EMOTION, dig deep what is the real reason you are sad, angry, dismayed! ALLELUIA! The LORD stepped into our church, took over booted the devil to the curb and OUR CHURCH is on the MEND!


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