To be honest, I've been blessed both by my family and by my in-laws. My husband's family was welcoming even when they might have been skeptical about his choice of a bride! And our children are a joy to us, our sons and daughters-in-law, without exception, have blessed us and enriched our family; our grandchildren are a delight. Even our in-laws' extended families have been a blessing!
But recently I was in a situation where I couldn't avoid overhearing a young woman talking with friends about her family life, especially about a minor disagreement she'd had with her in-laws. Her attitude toward them was careless and rude. I don't know if she would speak directly to them that way, but with her friends she was dismissive of them, mistrusting their motives and their methods. And she wasn't alone!
Her friends joined in, recounting their in-laws' mis-steps and mistakes. Equally rude and dismissive, they seemed to try to top one another's stories about their clueless in-laws.
Not only that, they included a running commentary about their own children's shortcomings.
I wondered to myself if they had any idea how ungrateful and self-centered they sounded.
I know mothers-in-law can be equally tactless when they discuss their sons- and/or daughters-in-law or grandchildren, and I'm always sad to hear that, too.
This conversation was quite different from one I actually took part in several days later. These young moms were talking about their in-laws, specifically gifts their mothers-in-law had given them.
These moms recognized that, while some gifts had missed the mark widely, the thought and intent behind those gifts was loving. Their stories were funny, their attitudes gracious. Instead of being insulted or bitterly resenting some odd gift choices, they focused on the deeper message, the effort their in-laws had put into pleasing them. And these young women were much more fun to be with than the first group!
We are called to live together in love, so that we might build healthy, strong families. How much better to live that way, than to tear one another down carelessly over things that are better addressed with direct, honest, kind communication.
Family relationships, even good ones, require effort and maturity. How we talk about each other both reveals and shapes our hearts.
The words we use about our in-laws and other family members reveals our hearts; bitter words spring from a bitter heart. Careless words bubble up from a careless heart, and on it goes – our words merely give expression to our inner attitudes.
Our conversation shapes our hearts because the more we allow ourselves to complain about a situation (without trying first to remedy it) the more we invite bitterness and dissatisfaction in.
As wives and moms we have a choice: we can build our families in love, or we can tear them down carelessly. A lot depends on what we have to say about one another.