Sometimes it's easier to love those who are far away than those who are close! Some theologians thought our charity had to be totally universal, meaning we would have to love everyone equally. St. Thomas Aquinas disagreed: “We ought out of charity to love those who are more closely united to us more, both because our love for them is more intense, and because there are more reasons for loving them” (ST II-II q.26 a.8 res.). You may quickly admit you love your family more than others, but do you put this love into practice? Is it true charity or do you just put up with them?
Here is some advice if you have a hard time getting along with your family members.
1. If your family is driving you crazy, you are probably driving your family crazy too. Admitting that you may have something to do with the problem is an important step to take.
2. Stop judging. Never assume that they are saying or doing something to harm you. Trust that they love you even when you feel hurt or misunderstood. Maybe you feel offended precisely because you are being judgmental. Think about it. Your sister yells at you for seemingly no good reason, and you are upset. Now, at that point you can judge her or excuse her. That is, you can either assume, “She’s so mean! She hates me!” or just think, “She’s probably having a bad day again.” If you are convinced she hates you, you will be offended. If you trust she loves you, you will realize it is not a big deal. So make concrete efforts to give your family the benefit of the doubt and trust in their love for you, even when they may sometimes express the opposite in a moment of difficulty!
3. Don't play the victim: Have you ever thought or said: "No one understands me"? It is not true! First of all, God fully understands you, and much better than you understand yourself! And yet, alas, often you may truly feel misunderstood by those around you. Those thoughts may also be accompanied by feeling like you’re always the victim or like it’s always your fault. Try to remember that misunderstandings are totally normal among human beings, so it shouldn’t be a tragedy if you feel like others can’t fully grasp what is going on inside of you. The first step you should take is open your heart to your parents in a moment when you (and they) are feeling calm and serene. If you don’t let them know what you are struggling with, how can you expect them to understand you? After that, try to focus your efforts on understanding and loving your parents and siblings. If you give of yourself and serve, it will be easier to overcome your struggles.
4. Be patient and forgive: Never get tired of forgiving. This is what Jesus asks of us, not 7 times a day but 70 times 7! When you feel incapable of forgiving your family right away, get on your knees before going to bed and ask the Lord to forgive you for your hardness of heart. Regardless of what you have suffered, the Lord wants you to forgive. Ask Him to help you forgive that family member you couldn't forgive earlier that day, and then pray for him or her sincerely.
5. Ask for help: This should really be number one, because it is what will give the strength for all of the above. Ask the Lord to infuse HIS love into your soul, so that you may love in Him and for Him. That’s what charity is all about! Without Him, numbers 1-4 are impossible. With Him, if you sincerely ask for His grace and persevere in responding with generosity, you will soon find yourself loving your family more than ever before!