I received an email earlier this month from a son that was visibly affected by the death of his father, a portion of his email is shared here highlighting the part where the conflict started and how it ended, “My father and I would always engage in a heated discussion every time the topic touches on the business. If my memory serves me right, we had this unstable relationship starting at the time I graduated from university. At first, I thought it was part of my training, but through the years, it has gotten worse. There were many instances that he would question (and overturn) my decisions and embarrass me in front of my siblings, employees, and customers. I reached a point where I could no longer defend myself anymore. There were instances where we would have long shouting matches in his office and even in the corridors. After realizing that he would not change, I decided to leave the company after working for more than 15 years. We never spoke after that. Despite many attempts by my mother to make us reconcile, I flatly rejected it. I would always remark in a defensive tone, “Mama, this is not the right time.” 

He added, “When I learned that Dad passed away, I was filled with remorse. How do I say sorry now? I realized that I’d give almost anything to be able to tell him that I’m sorry for all the hurt I caused him, but it’s too late. Please encourage your clients to make things right while they still can. I am still hurting inside, and I feel I have let my family down.” 

That was a touching email letter from a son that never had the chance to reconcile with his father. I certainly hope it will encourage family members to leave the past behind and be reconciled to those they have hurt before it’s too late. As the late Billy Graham once said, “Nothing—absolutely nothing—is more final than death, and it closes the door on everything we should have done but didn’t.”

Admittedly it’s not easy to go to someone we’ve hurt and tell them we’re sorry (particularly if they’ve also hurt us). Our pride gets in the way; we also fear we might make things worse. But this shouldn’t hold us back. Graham quotes a verse in the bible to reinforce it, and in the quote, Jesus said, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14).

If there are issues or misunderstandings among family members, reconciliation is key. I still consider my family lucky as I get along well with my siblings. Our lines are open and we generally swap stories mixed with the good and the problematic ones. Clearly, our parents have shared values passed on to us, primarily respect and love for one another. For families with a history of conflict, it is time to reflect if you will continue to be haunted by ongoing conflicts or look at this holiday season of love and forgiveness as an opportunity to repair broken relationships.  

It is time to heal old wounds

We grew up believing that Christmas is intrinsically about family. While the holidays can provide many opportunities to reconnect with relatives, Christmas can also bridge familial relationships that are experiencing tension due in part because of rivalries between siblings or other business-related disputes. And what if you’re not on good terms with your loved ones? Strained relationships among relatives can impact other family members and perpetuate a stressful environment for all. While most family members approach Christmas celebrations with good intentions, old rivalries or recent arguments are often challenging to overlook or disregard, even for a short amount of time. In the interest of peace, joy and love, I will share strategies in my next column on how to deal with family conflict, which is more significant at this most crucial time of the year, the birth of Jesus Christ.