Four Ways Love and Faith Can Improve Toxic Family Relationships

Aside from our relationship with Christ, our family relationships are among the most important ones in our lives, and they can also be the most challenging. The quality of our family relationships has a significant impact on our mental and emotional health. Toxic family relationships take a toll on our emotional, spiritual, and physical health that can last a lifetime. The good news is that even the most hopeless family situation can heal through love and faith and go on to become even stronger and more fulfilling than it was in the past.

What are the signs of toxic family relationships?

Everybody thinks that they know what toxic family relationships look like. The mass media does an excellent job of painting a picture for us. What they do not tell you is that every family is different, and a toxic family dynamic can look quite different from the inside. Familial relationships are complex, and destructive family behavioral routines and interaction patterns often feel normal when you are in the middle of them.

Here are a few of the more common signs that you are in a toxic family relationship with someone.

  • You dread being around the family or family members.
  • After the interaction, you always come away feeling down, guilty, sad, or angry.
  • There are lots of fights, mostly from them taking things personally.
  • You feel like everything you say is used against you, which is a form of gaslighting, which is a form of emotional abuse.
  • You are being verbally put down, criticized, or bullied.
  • You feel like you are being held to unrealistic standards.

If you are afraid of the person, then it might be a good idea to cut off contact and put some distance between you so that you can heal. There are times when backing away for your own mental health is the most loving thing that you can do for yourself and that person, at least for a time. Sometimes, this is what it takes to get the point across that something needs to change and that you will not tolerate things continuing as they have been in the past.

If you are experiencing any of these feelings or situations, then you might have a toxic family dynamic. Now, let’s talk about some things that you can do to help heal the relationship and move on to one that is more loving and fulfilling.

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How can love improve familial relationships?

The good news is that family relationships can improve with love and faith, but it does not happen overnight. Here are four ways that love and faith can be the first steps to healing family ties.

1. Forgiveness

We all know that forgiveness is one of the most important principles that Christ teaches, but to forgive someone who has hurt you is easier said than done. This is especially true if the hurt has been going on for a long time. Sometimes, we know that forgiveness is the right thing to do, but loving thoughts might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about that person. The first place to start is prayer and spending time getting your own feelings straight. It might be good to spend time away from the toxic family member until you have things straight in your own mind.

2. Love and Prayer

We know that, as Christians, we do not want to storm off in anger and hurt, at least for the long term. However, a little bit of cooling off time is better than letting a volatile situation get worse. Stepping away can be healthy, but you should use this time wisely to pray and work on ways to change the dynamics of the patterns so that they do not repeat.

3. Support

At this point, do not be afraid to talk to your pastor or a family counselor for advice. If you want a change, then seeking help is the best thing to do. You need to learn to set boundaries with the toxic family member in a way that is healthy for everyone. Having an outside opinion can provide the most valuable insights into how to make sure that the next time you are together, the patterns do not fall into old interaction routines.

4. Compassion

Getting the help that you need to change the relationships is an act of love and compassion on your part. You must recognize that everyone is a child of God and that we are loved, even when we mess up. You must realize that you cannot change the person, but you can change the way that you interact and respond to them. Finding the support that you need so that you can help support them is the most loving place to start.

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How can faith in Jesus improve your family relationships?

When it comes to how to respond to toxic family members, there is not a lot of helpful scripture that serves as a how-to course. However, there is plenty of helpful scripture on forgiveness and mending relationships. Most of them have to do with our duty to forgive others, as our heavenly father has forgiven us. We find this advice in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.”

This verse tells us that we have to be willing to start a brand new relationship with the person as if the past never existed. That does not mean that we allow the old patterns to return, and it does not mean that we do not set boundaries. It means that we cannot hold onto the sins of the past and carry them into the present if we want to build a loving and supportive relationship. Here are five things that you must realize if you want to heal your relationship with someone.

  • It will take time. Old family patterns are hard to break, especially those that have a lot of momentum behind them, but with love, dedication, and professional help, they can heal.
  • There will be ups and downs. These new behavior patterns take practice, just like learning any other skill. Keep in mind that you are in it for the long haul when you have a setback.
  • Enforce boundaries. This is where professional advice is a valuable asset. You need to have a strategy for enforcing your boundaries and handling difficult interactions.
  • Turn to Jesus. When times are tough, ask what would Jesus do? This allows you to step back from your current emotions and take a different view of the situation. Many times, the answers will come when you do this.
  • Remember why you are doing this. Family is important, and supporting each other through difficult times can lead to even more fulfilling relationships and growth for everyone. Keep this at the forefront of the healing process.
  • Have gratitude. The importance of gratitude cannot be underestimated. Do not forget to stop and give thanks for every small victory along the healing process.

As difficult as they are, challenging family relationships present incredible opportunities for growth, as a family, as individuals, and in our relationship with Christ. We are here to learn, grow, and to walk in the footsteps of Christ in everything that we do. Jesus did not turn his back on those who needed help, and neither should we, especially when it is our own family member. As tempting as it can be to just walk away and cut someone off completely, that only ends in hurt for everyone and destroys our most important bonds.

There is nothing wrong with stepping away to reflect and develop a strategy, but in the end, a healed family relationship can be the most rewarding experience for everyone. Besides, when we can show forgiveness to those who have hurt us the most, we can truly emulate the teachings of Christ. Healing a family relationship can be one of the greatest challenges that you will ever face, but it can also lead to the greatest love and reward in the end.

About Dr. Wanda Guy-Craft

Dr. Wanda Guy-Craft is a wife, a mother, and a Board Certified Family Physician who was born and reared in Newnan, GA. An HBCU loyalist, she is a graduate of both Spelman College and Howard University College of Medicine.