I'm a loud-mouth who has lost her filter. Every year since I graduated high school my filter has gotten less and less...filter-y. So it's probably a very good thing that when it comes to the holidays, I have a really good family with far less drama than most people I know. I am well-aware that if I was in a more dysfunctional situation, I would be tempted to get myself into all sorts of trouble.
But what if you are in a volatile situation? What if you have a mother who closely rivals Emily Gilmore? (guess what I've been watching...). What if it's even worse than that? I am so thankful that the holidays are a fun time for me and my family, but for many, the holidays are the most terrible time of the year.
So in that situation, how does a person manage to be a light for their family? How does someone remain Christlike when dealing with difficult people? Are there biblical principles to follow?
1.) Identify How They are DifficultIs your difficult family member obnoxious and makes you want to grit your teeth? Or do they legitimately treat you poorly? Do they talk too loud and pick their nose at the dinner table, or do they call you horrible things and spread lies about you? Identifying this first can help you keep things in perspective, and maybe help you realize whether or not you need to have someone step in and help you.
If you are simply being annoyed by someone in your family, it's probably best to suck it up and remember that you have annoying habits too. Plus, if they are always this annoying they may not have many friends and could probably use some extra grace and love.
However, if someone is spreading lies around your family or being extremely hateful or harmful, maybe it's time you talk to a trusted (fairly non-biased) family member about the situation and have them mediate a bit.
In the end the issue may go too deep to truly be resolved, but as much as it depends on you, live at peace with others.(Romans 12:18). You can't control what they do, but you can control what you do. Sometimes all we can do is love them- despite them.
2.) Put the Situation Into PerspectiveHow important is the issue you are dealing with? Will it really alter your life that much if Aunt Suzie-Lou is talking about how you still aren't married? Will that actually affect your life quality or change your path? Probably not. And though it may hurt or be annoying, if you can recognize that it doesn't really matter, it's suddenly a lot easier to let it go.
3.) Talk it OutThere is something to be said for speaking the truth in love, and the concept is very biblical (Eph. 4:15, Matt. 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 they are being obnoxious or 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 to discern along with the Holy Spirit's leading.
4.) Avoid PrideWe were all in the same spot once- sinners in need of grace. If God had not rescued us, we would still be in that exact same position. And that difficult family member may still be stuck in the muck that God rescued us from. They may be lost and confused.
And lets just say they do know Jesus- they just drive you bonkers anyway. Even then, we know that we have flaws and things we need to work on. We know that we have moments that are simply shameful (Matthew 7:3-5). So try to stay humble and remember your flaws when you start grumbling at theirs. If nothing else, it can help you remain a little more humble.
5.) Remember Why You Care in the First PlaceThere's a reason you were interested in the title of this post. There's a reason you even want advice about this subject. Most likely, it's because you have a desire to serve Christ with your actions.
If that's the reason, then I honestly believe that focusing on that even when family is pushing you to your limits, will help you more than anything.
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.
The Other Side of the CoinFriends, like I said at the beginning of this post, I am so very blessed and don't have to deal with this issue at my own holiday gatherings. I know that there may be things that I left out or didn't take into account. And if that's the case, tell me about it in the comment section. It'd be great to hear your side of things. But as a general rule, these are biblical principles that you can use to interact with difficult people.
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. Don't make that your go-to action. Try to live out the other principles, but if you know deep down that it's best not to go, then don't.
Disclaimer!And finally, please know that biblical love is never, ever an excuse for abuse. If you are being physically, emotionally, or sexually abused by a family member, that is not the time to "suck it up and love them". If you are being abused, you not only need to stay away from the abuser, but you should also report them. Difficult family is very different from abusive family. Recognize the difference and act accordingly.
I hope you have found these tips helpful and that you will consider using them to help your holiday season go more smoothly for you and your family.