Home » Letters » How To Help Resolve Family Conflicts?

Question: I feel fear and sadness whenever there are messages and calls from a sibling and other family members – as there are quarrels between them. I tried to help, but feel totally drained, with the outcome often in vain. What can I do to manage my emotions and help them?

Answer: Since there are quarrels with them together, have you separately spoke to them sincerely to find out the issues as a peacemaker? Contrary to popular beliefs for such matters, that [1] both sides are problematic, or that [2] one side is the problem, usually, [3] one side is is the most problematic, while the others less. It is important to know this because believing or insisting that [1] is true will aggravate both sides, especially if leading to unfair compromise. To think [2] is true antagonises that side more, while missing [3], which is the reality. The cause and effect of each problem has to be discerned accurately, one by one, so that its roots can be detected and uprooted. Having a skilled neutral third-party to help resolve conflicts can be useful too.

It might be troublesome, but you might have to be the to-and-fro messenger to convey communication since they clash with one another through their communication. In the mean time, encourage both parties to stop clashing even by phone; to communicate through you instead – if they wish the clashing to end for the good of all. If there are no emergencies, even if resolutions take much time, so be it. Do what you can at the pace you are comfortable. If done too quickly, there might be more quarrels in the heat of the moment. On your part, you can practise more sincere and diligent Nianfo (practice of mindfulness of the name of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’) to gain and maintain more peace of mind, which increases calmness and clarity to solve the problems. Merits can be dedicated to all beings, including family members too, with the wish that they suffer less and create less suffering for one another.

Family conflicts that affect us are part of family’s collective karma, that can be collectively transformed for the better. But often, it pivots upon one peacemaker. It is good to continue doing your best. But remember that you cannot control others, while you can at best guide them. It is good to see these challenges as opportunities to practise the Dharma. As long as you do your reasonable best, you should not suffer from guilt, fear, sadness and such. Each time the opportunity arises to help, think – ‘Amituofo! With the Buddha’s blessings, may I be compassionate and kind, calm and patient – to do my best before leaving it to the rest!’ You can share this article with them honestly too, leaving it unchanged, with your question and these answers, letting them know your concerns, on how they are affecting you. Sometimes, it is such gentle but heartfelt sincerity that awakens others’ wisdom.

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