How to Heal Family Strife


I’m a 19 year old girl. There has been a lot of strife in my family since my parents got married. In October 2020 my father passed away. Now I live with my mom, aunt and grandmother. Relatives visit us from time to time. There is tremendous fighting and discontent between members of this family. I’m at a loss what to do. If I try to calm down one family member then the other one gets upset. No one’s willing to forgive petty mistakes or accept the other person as he is. What do I do?

—NS, India


Dear Friend,

I am so sorry to hear of this family discord, and so soon after your father’s passing. You seem to be a natural peacemaker among your quarreling family members. You don’t indicate that you have any other options as to with whom to live, and, besides, you are with your mother which is the natural place to be.

My teacher and guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, said that the law of karma sometimes draws together into the same family souls which are in need of the opportunity to work things out — learning to get along, heal past life enmity, and find peace among themselves. It may seem to you now that none of them seek harmony, yet they have been drawn into close quarters where their differences are unavoidable.

So what can you do? Since you have tried to help them but to no avail, you might consider that you step back from the turmoil for the time being. God allows souls to choose as they wish, and by the consequences of their actions to gradually learn what brings happiness and what brings suffering. So, be like God: willing to help but willing to wait patiently until these souls begin to desire peace rather than strife.

When you observe one of your relatives wanting to be peaceful, support that person, even if but silently or by words, prayer, or helpful actions.

But otherwise, consider playing a role that normally might be expected of someone of older years: the matriarch of the clan, wisely observing, generally saying little, yet looking for openings among the younger clan for receiving your wisdom-guided counsel!

I have often seen among families that the youngest are more mature than the oldest; children sometimes act like the parents of their own parents in terms of calmness and wisdom. The law of karma is not so difficult to discern in such cases where the one who is the “child” ends up helping, guiding or caring for his/her own “parent” because that was their relationship in a past life! (Why their roles reversed is more difficult to know but not difficult to guess.)

The very fact of your making the effort and even in writing to us suggests you have that role or potential and it might therefore be helpful if you imagine yourself (for this purpose) not as a young woman of 19 years but an adult of wiser years! Normally someone of younger years has not yet learned the wisdom of patience, but I suspect you might see the value of watching and waiting for openings — and the wisdom of not trying to change their behavior by force of your personality and desires alone.

Does this make sense? It has often been said that “Patience is the quickest road to God (i.e. to “success”).”

In short, then: pray daily for each of your relatives that they find and desire peace, harmony, acceptance of self and of others, and love for God and love for one another!

Keep busy with your studies, your job, or the needs of the family and household but remain ever watchful for signs among them of wanting to get along with one another.

If one speaks badly of another in your presence, you might calmly offer some positive comment about the other person, not in a way that contradicts or challenges but as if your own simple observation (and it should of course be an observation that is true). Don’t defend, just comment.

If another speaks well of someone, support that observation by agreeing (assuming the comment is true).

Do simple and kind things for one of your relatives who might be moody, critical or upset. Just quietly offer him/her some tea, or go for a walk, or offer to help with some chore but don’t get involved with the heated words of the moment. Just swoop in like a dove of peace with a smile.

Do you see what I mean: be like an invisible Spirit of peace moving silently among them, saying little, doing much, and expressing only quiet joy and loving acceptance of all. Thus you will be the Divine Mother offering healing balm to all yet giving them the freedom to accept it.

Blessings to you!
Nayaswami Hriman