Here are 4 signs that God could use to let you know that he wants you to remove a family member from your life.
1. If You’ve Already Set Healthy Boundaries But They Keep Blowing Through Them Even Though You Have Provided Lesser Consequences Each Time, This Is Probably a Sign God Wants You to Remove This Family Member from Your Life
We should not be quick to remove a family member from our lives. Family is interwoven into many other relationships we have, so on a practical level, it’s not so easy to just remove them. And biblically, I do think we have a greater responsibility towards our family than to other people. For example, 1 Timothy 5:3-8 states:
Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God . . . But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Paul was helping Timothy address needs in the church. The church should help those members who really need help, but our first line of defense when we need help should be our family. I say all that because I don’t want anyone to take it lightly if they are considering removing a family member from their life.
But there truly are times where it is absolutely necessary to do this. One of those scenarios is if you have already tried to set up healthy boundaries with this unhealthy family member but they keep disrespecting those boundaries. You rightfully have withdrawn even more from them and set up even firmer boundaries, but they still keep lashing out at you and being toxic. The last boundary you can set for someone is to totally remove them from your life.
In 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Paul gives us a long list of negative traits of people who are corrupt. And then in verse 5 he clearly states, “Avoid such people.”
Try to set lesser boundaries first to see if this person will repent of their sins towards you (Matthew 18:15). But if they don’t, they leave you no choice but to remove them completely.
2. If Your Repeated Failed Efforts to Live at Peace with Them Are Showing You That Peace Can Only Come Through Separation, This Is a Good Sign God Is Telling You to Remove This Person from Your Life
Paul and Barnabas were great ministry partners. But then they had a disagreement that they could not see eye-to-eye on. They didn’t spend their whole lives trying to find common ground. Staying together and trying to figure it out forever was going to hurt their ministry. They accepted they had a difference that could not be solved right now and this difference was so extreme that peace could only happen through separation. So that’s what they did, “And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other” (Acts 15:39).
Sometimes this happens with our family too. Sometimes you try and try to find peace with someone, but no matter what you try you two just keep warring with each other. If this happens, I don’t believe God will call you to endlessly argue with someone that you will never see eye-to-eye with (2 Timothy 2:23).
If you can agree to disagree and just hold your tongues out of respect for each other, great. But if it’s one of those things neither of you can accept about the other, then sometimes the only path to peace is separation.
3. If This Person Has Abused You in a Way That Has Forever Made Them Untrustworthy, This Is a Sign God Is Telling You to Remove This Person from Your Life
One of the major problems in the church is a misapplication of the biblical process of reconciliation. The church has often treated very serious abuses internally, as though a crime or a serious form of abuse should be handled in the exact same way as every other sin between two believers.
While God does call all Christians to forgive all sins committed against us, even sins of abuse – God does not want us to reconcile with people who are still abusive (1 Corinthians 5:4-5). God does not want us to spare criminals of just civil punishments (Romans 13:1-4). And God does not want us to pretend like verbal abuse or manipulation is something that should be forgiven and then forgotten so it can just happen again and again (Proverbs 19:19).
Yes, forgive always as the Bible says (Matthew 6:14-15). But don’t over apply what forgiveness actually is. Forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation. You don’t have to be close with people who are intent on doing you harm. Forgiveness is not about shielding abusers from the discipline and consequences they need. And forgiveness is not about ignoring the command to guard your heart like we are told to do in Proverbs 4:23.
4. If You Have to Remove This Person Out of Your Love for Other People Who Are a Greater Priority to You, This Is a Sign God Is Telling You to Remove This Person from Your Life
Family is so messy because our relationships with each other affect so many other people. If your adult daughter is being verbally abusive to your wife, you have to put your wife first. If your dad hates the man you married, your first allegiance is to your husband, not your dad. If you are mature enough to deal with your parent’s verbal abuse, that’s one thing; but what about when they start verbally abusing your children? You can’t let that happen.
All of our relationships are not equal. There are people in our lives that God has given us a greater responsibility towards (For example, Genesis 2:24). If a family member is making you choose between them and another person that you have to put before this family member, this is a sign God is telling you to remove this family member from your life.