For some, gathering the family together for a holiday is one of the best times of the year.
…And others might just prefer to take their Christmas dinner in a to-go box.
Many of us probably describe at least one person in our family as “hard to deal with,” or “difficult,” or quite frankly – crazy. I’d bet that some of us would throw several family members into those categories!
There are a variety of reasons we might label them that way. It can be as innocent as a loud-laughing uncle who can’t quite control his volume, or the one-upping brother who always points out when he does something slightly better than you did. Or sometimes it can be destructive behavior. Maybe you have a parent with a short fuse that you hope doesn’t go off on you this holiday. Maybe it’s a gossiper, or someone trying to stir up drama and conflict – the list can go on and on.
All of that can make getting together for the holidays a bit of a struggle.
So how do we find peace and unity with our families during the holidays with so many different personalities?
Unfortunately, it’s not a solution we can achieve in five simple steps. See, I’ve had these same thoughts and struggles in my own life. Sometimes it’s with family, sometimes it’s with co-workers or friends.
After a while, I realized something:
It’s tempting to think about someone else being the obstacle to peace and unity.
It means I don’t have to put my thoughts, words, or actions on trial. It means I can define someone by their actions instead of who they are as a person.
But that’s not the way that God views us. There are no “good guys” or “bad guys.” We’re all just people.
In our families, everyone has different strengths, weaknesses, and personalities. When everyone is crammed into a house for a day, it’s easier for someone’s weaknesses to be a little more visible.
It certainly would be nice to be able to fix someone’s weaknesses, just as I’m sure someone else would like to be able to fix mine. But the reality is that we can’t fix all the things we think are wrong with others.
However, God doesn’t call us to do that.
It’s not about fixing other people; it’s about fixing our response to others.
So how can we show Jesus’s love to all of our family members, even when it’s difficult? Here are a few thoughts:
- Consider your attitude, words, and actions. Your attitude will influence your behavior, so the more you pray for God to shape your life, the better you’ll be able to love your family.
- Commit to pray for your family leading up to the holidays. Pray for the salvation of those who don’t know God; pray for peace, and for God to work in the hearts of you and your family.
- Think about the kind of atmosphere you want to set for the day, and lead by example. If there are topics you know will bring conflict, try to avoid them. Even if others bring them up, you can respectfully switch the subject.
- You don’t have to wait for a conversation to start. Try to make purposeful conversation with someone by asking them good questions. Something more open-ended will hopefully let them share more of their heart and allow your relationship to grow.
- Try out a group activity to get the whole family involved. Even a 10 minute game can make a difference in people’s attitudes and behaviors.
- Find a reason to be grateful. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Even in difficult circumstances, we must give thanks to God.
Every time we’re with our family, we’ve been given the opportunity to share God’s love.
It might not be easy. In fact, you might face more challenges when you pursue a Christ-like love for your family. But God is faithful to answer our prayers and do incredible works in our hearts.