There’s no place like home for the holidays……and isn’t that a relief? No, really—I think almost everyone can relate to the inevitable stress that comes from gathering with relatives during the holidays. Even those we’re glad to see can be a source of discomfort and even conflict. How to approach this challenge with difficult family members?
The Serenity Prayer comes to mind here, with its three parts that offer such wise counsel. Let’s take them one at a time (though not in the usual order).
1) “To change the things I can”
I suggest tweaking this slightly to read “to control the things I can.” In other words, try to spend time with your relatives when you’re well-rested, well-nourished, when your kids aren’t strung out (i.e. sugar-dosed, sleep-deprived, travel-exhausted, etc.). If you can meet some of your own (and your family’s) bodily needs for nutrition, hydration, exercise, and rest, you’re more likely to stay in control of your emotions and better able to let uninformed/snarky/nosey/otherwise uncomfortable comments pass. In other words, you’ll be able to…
2) “Accept the things I cannot change.”
Think about the family gathering(s) you’re likely to participate in this season. Most often, it’s a mish-mash of people who come from different walks of life, have different views on politics, religion, the economy, entertainment, etc. Is it any wonder that it’s hard to get along? On a day-to-day basis, most of us are pretty successful at choosing our company and knowing how to relate to them. But at family gatherings, it’s a much more diverse setting. Even though behaviors and attitudes drive you nuts, in reality you’re not likely to change. Unless…
3)“The wisdom to know the difference.”
Maybe the Lord is calling you to be the agent of change. This wisdom to know what to accept and what to try to change is one of the fruits of prayer. Start praying now for the guidance to conduct yourself lovingly, to speak your truth when necessary, and to remain quiet and listen actively at other times.
A number of years ago, a large group of church leaders gathered with the operating principle: “In essential matters—unity; in doubtful matters—freedom; in all matters—charity.” In other words: try to be of the same mind in the really big issues (you have to determine what’s essential!); but in things that might not be crucial, give people room to disagree. And in everything, let love guide and rule you.
That might be a good approach for each of us as we return home for the holidays.
HOW DO YOU DEAL with difficult relatives? Please share below!!!
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