No one ever becomes all they can be by only hearing all they are not.
Whether you are dealing with a son or son-in-law, daughter or daughter-in-law, or any other member of your family, never demean. Your responsibility is to honor and love. “But you don’t know my son-in-law,” you might protest. “He’s got so many things he needs to change, and I can help him see that.” Well, maybe he does need to change, but your role is not to point that out. Rather, take Romans 2:4 to heart and do what it says: “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” Just as God shows kindness that leads you to repentance and transformation, so must you show kindness, tolerance, and patience to your in-laws. That is your primary role.
Does this mean family members can never confront one another about behavior they find unacceptable? No, not necessarily, but caution must be exercised. After all, the Father does correct His children: “For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:12). The key is whether you are correcting from love or from spite. Correction done for spite is no one’s delight, nor is it right before God.
I want to add a word of encouragement to those who said “I do” and with those words created a blended family or, maybe for some, an instant family. Just as favoritism falls naturally along bloodlines when the subject is in-laws, so too does it in the matter of children. Since the family unit of today often includes stepchildren, let me admonish those who have married into this scenario that there is no second set of standards for raising the biological children of someone else. If they are your spouse’s children, you said “I do” to treating them as your own—even when they say, “You’re not my dad,” or “Don’t tell me what to do; you’re not my mom.” Your proximity to them should not stir up anger. In addition, you will need to fight favoritism when or if you have kids of your own.
I recognize that the pain of divorce and the sight of Mom or Dad with someone else are deep wounds to a child’s soul, but this gives you all the more reason to be loving and tenderhearted towards a stepchild even though the kindness may not be returned. Remember, this is a child who needs nurturing and love, and you have, though maybe not legally, adopted him or her into your family. Adopted is an important word, because we all understand that someone who adopts a child that they have no biological connection to does not do so with the expectation of loving them less or treating them differently from the way they treat one of their own. The blended family is to live under the same loving standards as any other; there is no second set of rules.
Let me close this chapter with a few questions:
Fathers-in-law, are you patient with the young man who has entered your daughter’s life as her covering and protection?
Sons-in-law, do you promote richness in your relationship with your father-in-law, or is he the “old windbag” your wife calls Dad?
Daughters-in-law, do you reject the insight and wisdom of your mother-in-law because you view her as overbearing? If so, you are depriving yourself of a rich source of knowledge.
Mothers-in-law, do you accept your daughter-in-law as one of your own, loving her unconditionally while acknowledging that she must be first in your son’s life?
To all, are you as patient and long-suffering with your in-laws as you are with your own family? Look deep inside and answer truthfully.
When a new home is established, the man leaves his mother and father and cleaves to his wife. Their loyalty to each other surpasses any sense of loyalty to the families they came from. If this basic principle is understood by both the newly married couple and their families, many of the common problems that pop up with in-laws can be avoided from the start. Never should a man or woman feel as though they come second to their spouse’s family, and the one who creates that feeling is out of bounds and their actions bordering on betrayal.
Matthew 5:9 tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (NKJV). Division and discord within a family are always from the devil. If they have found their way into your home, examine yourself and see if you were the one who let them in. Dear friends, when in-laws seem like outlaws—or even act like them— someone has not followed God’s plan of living in peace. If that is you, purpose today to make peace a priority. Your in-laws can become just as dear to you as your natural family, and you can live happily even after combining two very different families into one. The choice is yours—in-laws or outlaws? Which will it be?
Excerpt from “Happily… Even After” now available on Amazon.