When Family Is Lost to Internal Conflict

A couple having an argument.

Compared to married couples, cohabiting partners may find it relatively easier to exit in times of difficulty since they haven't legally tied their lives together through marriage. (Image: Ana Blazic Pavlovic via Dreamstime)

In the book Dream of the Red Chamber, author Cao Xueqin said, in the words of one of his characters: “An external force does not destroy a family, but by internal struggle or internal fighting by all means.” 

Internal conflicts can be more destructive than poison, shaking the family’s roots until they break their foundation. A family incessantly embroiled in entanglements has no peace or true happiness.

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The greatest tragedy for a family is not poverty, but internal conflict. Here are three important lessons about internal conflict.

The importance of having tolerance toward those we’re closest to

Two couples met to play badminton and formed a mixed doubles team. After playing a few games, both teams shouted simultaneously that they wanted to stop playing. It turned out that both couples had fallen into a quarrel. When they played, each partner complained that the other did not cooperate reasonably, and whenever anyone made a mistake, they complained and got frustrated, blaming their partner.

One person finally suggested that they switch partners and play one more time. Interestingly, with the change of partners, they played politely, without accusations or complaints, happily playing until the gym closed.

Why was this so? It’s widespread to see. The extensive daily mistake is to be polite toward strangers but rather harsh with those close to them. We tend to be more respectful to outsiders, but often rude to our families. We are usually patient and kind toward those we don’t know well, but we take those we’re closest to for granted and sometimes use harsh words to hurt those closest to us.

For example, when our neighbor’s child is difficult and rebellious, we are patient and thoughtful, but we may lose our temper when our child is disobedient. Likewise, in the workplace, we tolerate customers’ demands and our boss’ unreasonable accusations, but when we return home, we become furious if our spouse complains about something we’ve done.

We’re typically friendly and tolerant at the office, but when we return home, we find fault with each other, even over something minor.

The more intimate people are, the more they find and magnify each other’s flaws; the more they care about the attention, the more likely they are to expect too much. When we spend time with our families, conflicts between us are familiar. People living under the same roof are prone to tit-for-tat behavior and calculating.

Stubborn little girl sits with her arms crossed and worried mom sits on the sofa rubbing her head after having an argument.
When our neighbor’s child is difficult and rebellious, we are patient and thoughtful, but we may lose our temper when our child is disobedient. (Image: Fizkes via Dreamstime)

Confucius said that it is difficult to be tolerant. The hardest thing in life is not to tolerate outsiders, but to be pleasant and kind to family members who are close at hand.

The first step to stopping internal family conflict is to let go of blame.

Home should be our refuge

Wang Xiaobo once said: “When you have seen too much of the outside world when you are exhausted by tedious office work and difficult relationships at the office, you will find that home is your last place in the world,” meaning your place of refuge. 

However, when this “last place” is full of thorns and smoke, home is no longer a refuge, but a battleground where there is never a winner, no matter who is victorious and defeated. 

In Three Autumns a Day, writer Liu Zhenyun tells the story of a couple named Chen Changjie and Cherry. Initially, they were an admirable couple in the Henan opera troupe, but as the days went by, they began to fight with each other. Finally, Cherry became unhappy with her mother-in-law’s parenting style. After several rounds of mother-in-law-daughter-in-law battles, she forcibly took her son away and would not allow them to meet. 

Unable to stand Cherry’s forcefulness and to spend the night out drinking with friends, Chen Changjie occasionally came home and acted extremely indifferent toward his wife. Finally, fed up with the bickering at home, his son Chen Mingliang ran away from home several times and almost became a beggar on the street. The saddest thing was that after Cherry fell out with her husband over a handful of leeks, she hanged herself in a rage.

A good family can be torn apart and left destitute by a tragedy of human nature.

As the old saying goes, a hundred fortunes will not fall if a family is unsettled. However, when they are divided over trivial matters, the result is not only the loss of the family’s wealth, but also the fall of each individual into the abyss.

David Barney, a British healing guru, shared a case in point.

The father was a domestic abuser, and the mother was an alcoholic. They never spoke adequately, and all they did was accuse and abuse each other. The relationship between their two daughters was so tense that they would even fight over a piece of clothing — the older sister even stabbed her younger sister with a fruit knife during a fight.

In the end, no one in this family was happy or good. Ultimately, the father inexplicably disappeared, the mother went insane, and the two sisters quit their studies early and wandered around in the underbelly of society.

The grindstone of life is already a heavy burden. If the family adds to each other’s burdens, they will be crushed and too scarred to move forward.

Often, a family’s tragedy is not the result of an accident or a disaster, but rather the development of the small and endless internal strife between them. It is like rowing a boat — if everyone is fighting for themselves and against each other, even a tiny wave may cause the ship to capsize and the people to die.

To stop internal strife, you must stop selfishly fighting and show kindness and respect toward your family.

A family out walking.
The happiness of a family requires the full cooperation of every family member. (Image: Lifeontheside via Dreamstime)

The best feng shui

Sun Qifeng, a master of science in ancient China, said: “Heaven cannot manipulate the prosperity of a family, but only by its own doing.”

The happiness of a family requires the full cooperation of every member. In his autobiography, Lee Kai-fu, the former CEO of Microsoft China, once wrote: “The warmth of my family enveloped me like sunshine and gave me a carefree atmosphere to grow up in. The love and care of my family have benefited me throughout my life.”

Li Kaifu was the sixth child in his family, with four sisters and one brother above him. His mother, a physical education teacher, was quick-witted, open, and easy-going, while his father, a public official, was severe and unsmiling. As a child, Li Kaifu was notoriously naughty and mischievous, but whenever he got into trouble, his strict father and his mother, who was kind and comforting, coached him in unison. But he was never scolded in anger.

As the youngest son in the family, his mother was partial to him, but his older siblings never took it personally; instead, like his mother, they took great care of him without harboring any resentment or jealousy. The family agreed on trivial matters but could sit down and discuss their differences. When it came to the issues of interest, they weighed the pros and cons and then decided on a solution, and no one ever tried to settle old scores.

In such a family, the husband and wife have a harmonious relationship, and the children and grandchildren have successful careers. Moreover, a pleasant family often contains enough energy to last a lifetime.

Life is not a debate, so there is no need to argue about who is right and wrong; nor is the family an arena, so there is no need to divide the top and bottom.

In one family, Bing Xin’s husband was a nerd who often got things wrong yet tried his best to help. Bing Xin affectionately teased that he was “such a silly man” and smiled and helped him take care of everything.

In another family, Qian Zhongshu could not tie his shoes, could not tell his left from his right, and often broke things, but his wife, Yang Jiang, always laughed and said: “It’s ok, it doesn’t matter.”

He was kind and did not argue, even about big things, and he did not save up old grudges nor try to settle old scores.

Home is where people start and where they belong.

The greatest tragedy of a family is not that it is trapped in poverty, but that it loses to internal conflict. When families fight, it is hard to be happy, even if you are in a house of honor.

A harmonious and happy family atmosphere is bound to bring prosperity to the family. Therefore, running your home well is the best feng shui for your life.

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