Spirit Daily


When Spiritual Attacks Come Through Family, Remember to Disengage

By Michael H. Brown

Have you ever noticed that some of the greatest trials (and most intense attacks) come through members of the family?

Many stinging words and hurtful actions come through those closest to us, for the simple reason that the devil is clever.

He infiltrates. He hurts us through those who are closest to us, or he uses us to hurt them. You know how it is: you're visiting relatives and something is said or a certain tone of voice is used or there is the resurrection of an old hurt or an old argument or a conflict of personalities.

We all have baggage, and members of our families are likely to have some of the same weak spots, adding fuel to the fire.

Especially during holidays and summer months, we think of this because exposure is heightened. We also think of it because one of the Mass readings this week is from Matthew 10:36: "A man's enemies are those of his household."

"Enemies" is used in the sense of temptation -- and especially a temptation to fight back!

What do we do about it? How do we stop it from ruining family get-togethers?

There is first of all our own healing: If we have a conflict with a relative who shares some of our traits, we should seek to purge the traits that cause argumentation, and do this beforehand. Often, we are most aggravated at those who act through faults that we subconsciously recognize in ourselves. If you see someone as impatient or selfish, make sure you are not selfish or impatient. Many times what we see as negatively in another is a reflection of what is also negative within us. Relatives are often mirrored images of each other.

There is also "pre-forgiveness": When there is a particular person with whom you have trouble, forgive that person before you even visit. Forgive him or her for anything that might be said. Then, ignore the insult. This is crucial. Say, "It doesn't matter." Rise above aggravation.

Such is difficult and we do through the "prayer of disengagement": When you are to be near someone who likes to pick fights, who has rankled you, or with whom you simply fall into conflict, pray beforehand that you are emotionally disengaged as soon as the insult arrives, so that you will not react hastily and with similar hostility. It is when we react instantly, and with equal negative force, that we feel the strongest "sting."

Instead, reply to attacks with prayer and soon the attacks will end. Use as your mantra "reconciliation, love, humility." Remember the scripture about how a kind word turns wrath away? 

Greet insults with silence, and inject your spirituality into debates. In the heat of the moment we rarely regret what we have not said.

I saw this recently. Someone wanted to pick a fight about politics, and I instead turned the discussion to prayer. The attack vanished.

It's when we let our egos become involved that conflicts sting the most and become long-lasting.

Hard as it may seem, don't take such attacks personally. Know where they come from (often, the devil) and excuse the person immediately.

That isn't to say we should let someone continue unfairness without rebuke, nor that there is not a place for correction, but that we should respond (and use corrective words) only with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Go to Mass before meeting with someone with whom you have special problems! Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you to become disengaged as soon as the spark of an argument is lit.

Pray to be healed from any past hurts associated with whomever you will have contact, and forgive those hurts.

And don't become overly attached. Strange as it seems, we are not supposed to be overly attached to anyone, including family members. Such over-attachment often is at the root of antagonism.

In The 12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation, St. Alphonsus Liguori says that "to arrive at a perfect union with God, it is necessary, therefore, to be entirely detached from creatures. In particular we must renounce every inordinate attachment for our relatives. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ tells us that he who is too much attached to relatives cannot be His disciple. And why? Because it often happens that we have no greater enemies of our soul than our own relatives [my italics]."

Strong words, but often true. When we look too much to people instead of God, conflicts, imbalance, and attacks erupt. When there are problems, keep a holy distance. See through the prism of Jesus. Being attached should not be confused with love! We are always to love, but we are to love God first and to love all around us through Him.

This keeps us from over-attachments -- and from many family problems.

"It is sad to see so many souls who are otherwise rich in virtues and graces, but who never reach a perfect union with God because they have not courage to renounce some little attachment," said St. Alphonsus. "All that is necessary is one generous effort to break the cord that bind them and constitutes the only obstacle to their happiness."


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