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Are the holidays a stressful time because you have a dysfunctional or dramatic family? Do you know how to deal with difficult family members during the holidays?
For some (and this includes myself) family isn’t Hallmark Christmas Card perfect. The truth of the matter is holidays are usually hard for a lot of people especially if you’ve lost a family member, had a hard year, going through a divorce, or have a family divide. This can really take a toll on our mental health and can also impact our physical health as well.
First and foremost I want to tell you that it’s okay to have that feeling. It is totally okay if you don’t love the holidays. It’s okay if the holidays make you blue or if you just don’t love being around certain family members. You have permission to feel how you feel and those are your emotions and that is okay.
But you still do need to prepare for these kinds of situations where you’re going to have to be around those family members that irritate or rub you the wrong way. How does a person manage to be a light for their family? How does one remain Christlike when dealing with difficult people? Are there biblical principles to follow?
Get Suited Up
The very first thing you need to do is prepare yourself. You need to take the time before you even begin dealing with family or friends to get suited up! The Bible talks about in Ephesians 6:10-17 that we need to put on love, righteousness, shoes of peace, the breastplate of salvation. God gave us these things to help us to go into battle. A lot of times when you are going to be around family members and different people this time of year you need to take the time to get suited up because it is like going into battle.
On a personal level here, God gave me the gift of discernment. Can you relate? I often pick up on people’s energies and that is hard for me, especially this time of year because when you are around a lot of different people, they often bring their energy with them. If they are mad, upset, stressed, or whatever they’ve got going on, it’s really easy for me to pick that up. So it’s important that I spend time with God.
Decide Ahead of Time How You Are Going to Respond
This next one is a huge tip. Decide ahead of time how you are going to respond. You need to make up your mind ahead of time how you are going to respond.
Allow me to give you an example here. Let’s say you have a cousin that wants to talk about your income and that just makes you uncomfortable. You have permission to just respond by saying that you are enjoying spending time with them but that is just not something that you are willing to discuss so let’s just talk about something else. If your cousin doesn’t respect that then you are free to walk away and go talk to other people.
If you already have some “ready-made” responses, you are going to feel more prepared and less stressed so therefore your not going to have that chip on your shoulder when you walk into the family dinner. And it is important to learn how to set up those kinds of boundaries. Not just this time of year but all the time.
If there is something you don’t like that somebody does you need to let them know and it’s okay to let them know. In fact, there is something to be said for speaking the truth in love, and the concept is very biblical (Ephesians 4:15, Matthew 18:15-17). Don’t be afraid to bring the problem up to the offender. There are some cases where people don’t even realize that what they may have said or done was hurtful. Bringing it to their attention may be all they need.
Just make sure you use discernment about if and when to bring it up. There’s a time and place. And there are also times that it’s best not to bring it up. That is up to you to discern along with the Holy Spirit’s leading.
Remember Why You Care About Your Family In The First Place
Luke 6:31-36 says:
“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.“If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. “If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
And that’s what we need! That’s exactly why we want to be kind and loving towards even the most volatile of family members: God was merciful to us! His love should make us want to love others.
When we focus on His love and the fact that He calls us to love others despite their shortcomings, our attitudes will change. And it’s because at that moment we are focusing on our calling instead of our own interests. We are thinking of furthering God’s kingdom instead of furthering our payback.
Look At The Other Side of the Coin
God has a general way in which he asks us to handle and treat people, and these are just some of those ways. And at the end of the day, you still have to look at your specific situation. You still need to be loving, still, remember your own flaws, and still remember God’s grace to you- a sinner. But there are times when you may have to make the choice to skip your family gathering if the situation is bad enough. You may have to take a step back and realize that things are far beyond your control and it would be better for you not to go.
If going somewhere is going to completely compromise your mental health. If you are going to be upset and torn up and down in the dumps for weeks after don’t go. It is okay to not go to the family Thanksgiving. It is okay to say no. You have permission to not attend that does not make you a bad person, a bad spouse or bad daughter. It just means that if it’s going to stress you out to the point that it’s going to make you feel horrible for a long time and make you physically ill (because I’ve done that before), you have the right to just say no.
I think we all get stuck in this mentality or perhaps it could even be considered a limiting belief that we got to make everyone else happy, we got to please everybody else. Of course, we want to love people, but remember that if it compromises your mental health you don’t have to do it.