Why Are We Cruel to our Loved Ones?

Hi, friends. I know I take my loved ones for granted. How about you?

When People Create Their Own Misery

How many others have witnessed this scenario?

You’re in the company of a married couple or a child-parent pair. In conversation, a wife says something snide and cruel about her husband, and you instantly feel a pang of pity for both of them. Or a parent says or asks something pretty innocuous, and the child snaps back in an unnecessarily harsh way. Again, you feel the pang of pity.

Watching these scenarios is tough (especially in one’s own family). I want to shake the one who’s being cruel and ask, “Why do you act this way? Why do you delight in tearing this person down?”

I observe the facial expression of the one torn down, and when they look dejected, I just want to wrap them in a hug. Other times, the response is neutral because they’ve grown accustomed to this treatment and/or they do the same thing right back; somehow, that scenario is even sadder.

When I see spouses and families treat each other like gum on the sole of a shoe, I contemplate how much better life could be for all the people who choose to live out these abusive and oppressive patterns…when they could simply choose to be loving or–heck–even just friendly instead!

When We Become the Person Who Creates Misery

Why are we often cruel to our loved ones? Familiarity breeds contempt. We are all too aware of our loved ones’ flaws, so our patience runs thin. We grow weary from dealing with the same issues day in and day out.

As a result of our long-term resentment, we become the person in the scenario who shoots down their loved one. We are so fed up that the reactions feel justified. Just like that, we turn into the thing we hate to see in others.

Where Is the Love?

Where is the love, the love, the love? (dated Black Eyed Peas reference)

The Love chapter in Corinthians is deceptive in that it seems simple but is almost impossible in reality.

  • Love is patient.
  • Love is kind.
  • Love keeps no record of wrong doings.

How hard is it to be patient with a teenager who neglected to do a chore for the umpteenth time? How hard is it to be kind to the mother who drives you insane with her constant meddling? How many of us keep a mental tally of how many times our significant other does (insert annoying thing they do)?

I only have two tips for avoiding/escaping this situation. Firstly, remember how God forgives us in all our shortcomings, and allow that realization to humble us. Secondly, let’s make deliberate efforts and exercise self-awareness to prevent us from becoming a person who creates misery and tears down their loved ones.

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27, NRSV)

[Obligatory sidenote that fruit of the Spirit–such as love and patience–flows from submission to the Holy Spirit (+ loving God and following Jesus). But I believe our own will power (and ability to choose our reactions) plays a role in our graciousness towards others.]

Thanks for reading! Have you witnessed scenarios like this, and how do you respond to it? Do you, like me, have to make deliberate efforts to act more loving and patient sometimes? What is your take on the fruit of the Spirit being bestowed supernaturally vs. how we choose to treat people? Let me know in the comments.

34 comments

  1. Too often, this can be a habit. The other person is in a vulnerable position because of company and thus, the ‘sniper’ shoots away at their target. In reality, the sniper is the one who looks bad but, yes, it is uncomfortable for anyone and everyone. I’m at the age, an old guy, where now I do say something about it. I used to hold my tongue but now I point out how it is disrespectful to all. There are other times when I’d like to stick my foot up their…. however, in those times I hold my tongue and speak to them in private later. For example….”When you married them, you must have thought there was something good about them,right?” I speak along those lines. Thank you for bringing this sore spot up. I appreciate and believe others will learn from it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment, Tom–I love how you called the person being cruel “a sniper”–good comparison! I so agree that it actually makes the sniper look worse, yet it is still uncomfortable for all. I like your suggestion about pulling people aside and talking to them about it privately; I could imagine that method being effective.

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  2. “A soft answer turns away wrath” according to Proverbs 15:1; I have found this to be true experientially. Resentments can build and when not dealt with through discussion and forgiveness, can quickly become a bitter attitude, and forgiving someone 70 x 7 times as Jesus instructed is lost. And Lily, as you said, it is an act of our will to ask the Lord to help us walk in patience, and all the fruit of the Spirit. This is where we choose to do what God wants over what our emotions want. Not always easy, and sometimes we fail, but as long as we press in with love and a heart to do things God’s way, we will experience healing and reconciliation. Thank you for sharing ♥

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    1. That’s a helpful verse to bear in mind, Jacquie! And I like your explanation of our will power and the fruit of the Spirit–we must continually choose His ways and “press in with love,” but as I read in a Psalm recently, He never forsakes those who seek Him. Thank you for a great comment. 🙂

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  3. Ugh, I really dislike witnessing such things, it is so painful for me. And you are right, we do treat our loved ones worse than strangers. Guilty of that and I don’t like it one bit in myself!!!
    When I witness this type of thing from a parent or a married couple I usually say something funny, off the cuff, as a way to distract and diffuse the entire situation and ‘take the heat off’ the person who feels embarrassed.
    But your post and thoughts on this have given me pause and I am not sure I should do that in the future. I remember talking about something similar with an older Christian friend — we were discussing how to react when people say unkind or snide remarks. His advice to me was to just go silent and not respond at all. It is very hard to do that as there is then noticeable discomfort (and I am one who likes to fill up any uncomfortable silences with noise!!!). But the few times I have remembered to do that it did seem to have a ‘convicting’ effect. Instead of brushing off the slight, going silent can call even more attention to it and hopefully it can cause the offender to reconsider his or her language and behavior!
    kudos on another thought provoking and wisdom-filled post, Lily!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I do the same thing–try to change the subject and quickly diffuse! We ladies tend to try to “regulate” emotions (and tensions) in our environments. But I should try your other suggestion of going silent and see how that plays out. Thanks, Salt! ♥

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  4. Yes, I’ve seen this recently and it’s so disheartening. I think forgiveness and acting caring/ compassionate with others starts as a conscious effort. Then becomes easier over time. Every time I think I can’t, then I recall that Jesus still died for me and forgave all my “crappy” crap. Who am I to withhold what I’ve freely received myself? That humbles me every time.

    Interestingly enough, I wrote about this in my post last week. https://myquirkyfriend.com/families-and-feuds/

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  5. I’ve witness this to an extreme, and therefore have no contact with biological family. Life is much more peaceful and loving now, and though I forgive those in my past, it is my duty to keep my loved ones safe. Little spats happen and can be mended. Outright cruelty or abuse need not be tolerated.

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  6. Thank you, LIly. The enemy loves these scenarios. The flesh and the Spirit (I speak of the Holy Spirit as given in new hearts through the Lord Jesus Christ in our new birth) are always at war. The spirit of oppression present in this world is operative in all relationships. Only as two people seeking to love God and each other, understanding the enemy’s tactics, and praying for the Holy Spirit’s power, will know the loving relationship Jesus died to give us. Humility is the only means of overcoming this spirit that works through the flesh in opposition to others. And this does not come without realizing the need for it, desiring it, praying for it, and waiting for the Spirit to work it in us. The same is true for compassion as we respond to others and remain humble when others offend us. Love and blessings.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Appreciate your thorough comment, Fran. So true that our flesh and the Spirit given by God through Christ are constantly battling. I agree that we must exhibit humility and compassion to fight the flesh–and it doesn’t come without seeking a relationship with Jesus. Blessings to you, sister.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Intriguing post Lilly. I know I’m guilty of this myself at times. I’ve tried to be intentional about the words that leave my mouth, especially when speaking with a loved one. Maybe it’s easier to take out our stress on those we love because we know they love us unconditionally? We treat those closest to us the harshest at times it seems. No doubt this is part of living in our present fallen state…
    Thanks for this post. It’s a great reminder to treat those we love more kindly and not take them for granted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Rainer. Good point that we tend to “scapegoat” our loved ones and take our stress out on them since we know they’ll still love us, whereas a stranger wouldn’t take our junk, haha!

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  8. I’ve been guilty of lashing out when I was younger, and I’ve been in situations where…jokes aren’t jokes, they’re demeaning.

    It’s a hard place to be in. Often seeds of bitterness are grown. Thanks for bringing this up.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Jokes aren’t jokes.” Yes! Ugh, I’ve seen it happen too often where people justify their cruelty with, “I was just joking!” or “Jeez, can’t you take a joke?!” Agreed that unfunny “jokes” water those seeds of bitterness. Time for we Christians to do some serious self-reflecting and uproot those bad seeds!

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  9. I have seen some pretty absurd behavior when it comes to this, personally and non-personally. One encounter I observed was a family of 4–a dad, a mom, and two daughters. I am not sure what was said previously, but I remember hearing the mom say, “Mommy has authority over you,” while swaying side to side. According to her body language and tonality, it appeared as if she was more fulfilled by having authority over her children rather than being fulfilled that she had two girls she could teach and spend time with. The girls responded by turning to the dad and asking, “she does?” And, the dad replied by stating, “Yes, mommy does.” …I could not believe my ears.

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  10. Timely post!! I’m working on taking my thoughts captive and making them obedient to the Lord!! I’ve got to be slower on reactions because my impatience often causes me to respond negatively!!

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