Focus on the Family

Mom: Friend or Foe?

Ask the Lord to give you empathy for your mother, to help you understand, and to show you how you can love and support her in her struggles.

My mom and I had our first blowup when I was 9. We had just traveled across the country and were moving into our new apartment. She asked me to get her a scarf from her closet. She said it was in her bottom dresser drawer. Wanting to be helpful, I gladly searched for it. But I couldn’t find it, and I told her that.

Her response? She screamed “Why can’t you do one simple thing I ask? How come I have to do everything myself?!”

I was completely taken aback by her anger. The tears welled up in my eyes. I was shocked and sad because I felt I had failed her.

She stormed to the closet, and I followed because I wanted to see where the scarf was. But she couldn’t find it either. Then she opened the top dresser drawer, and there it was. The scarf.

Ah ha! I thought. I didn’t make a mistake! Your instructions were wrong! I smugly waited for her to apologize.

But she didn’t. Instead, she furiously waved the scarf in my face. “It’s right here! How could you not find it? You should be smart enough to find it without me having to instruct you in every little thing!”

I was stunned. How was this my mistake? I was angry. She was angry. This was the beginning, but our fighting went on for years.

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Looking back, I realize how stressed my mother was. Her marriage had just failed, and she was worried sick about how she was going to raise me by herself. Was she wrong to take that out on a 9-year-old? Absolutely. But was she going through something very traumatic that led her to make such a mistake? Absolutely.

Scripture tells us, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

This means we ought to have empathy for one another, even for our moms. Often we don’t understand the stressful situations our moms are going through. Sometimes they just don’t tell us because they’re trying to protect us.

Resolving Mother-Daughter Conflict

But we are still sisters in Christ. That means that when our moms seem agitated, cranky or irritable, it’s Christlike for us to stop and say, “Hey, Mom, what’s going on? Are you doing OK?” just as we would with any of our besties. Many times, Mom is juggling a lot and just needs to know that someone is on her side. It’s amazing how relationships can change when we try to understand one another and offer a hand of grace.

It can also help to have another female mentor in your court, especially when your mom might not have the capacity to be there for you. When things with my mom were hard, I needed someone to whom I could express my frustrations. I needed someone to pray with me and for me, and to be my cheerleader when my mom was too overloaded with life.

If you and your mom are working through some difficulties right now, ask God to show you a mentor who can help you through this season. Also, ask the Lord to give you empathy for your mother, to help you understand what your mom is going through, and to show you how you can love and support her in her struggles.

Mother-daughter conflict in your relationship can be tricky. Especially with all the difficulties of our world. But it is a relationship that God designed, and He can make it a blessing—for both of you.

This article first appeared in Brio Magazine. Learn more and subscribe here.

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