How to Deal with Difficult Family Over the Holidays (Biblically)

Monday, November 28, 2016

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 Difficult

Is 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 Perspective

How 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 Out

There 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 Pride

We 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 Place

There'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 Coin

Friends, 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.

20 comments

  1. GREAT tips! We always have someone in our family who is difficult during the holidays and it's hard to always be kind and still enjoy the holiday. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. This is such a good post...may hold true for after the election, as well! Lol! I love the line, let go of your pride. So needed. Just respect one another, and let it go.

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  3. This is such great advice, Kristin! I also have a wonderful family, but I've had to deal with difficult people in different situations. And you are so right, with the love of Christ, when we realize how good He is to us, we can love anyone.

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  4. This is a beautiful post. The holidays always seem to bring out our best...but often our worst. It's a time when family stress and strife can create terrible rifts within families.

    This year our family decided to lay out some ground rules before dinner--no politics. Since we have family members with very contrasting views, it ended up being the best advice and we all had a lovely time. I like the idea of using a mediator--that's so helpful to have someone moderate sometimes and step in where appropriate <3

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  5. Such a great post and much needed one for me during this time of my life. I am giving my problems over to the Lord. I've realized I can only change me and that's what I am going to focus on doing.

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  6. These are really great tips! It is very trying to deal with difficult family members. I have had my fair share of tough family situations. They are never easy. Great post!

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  7. Thank you for sharing! We are experiencing some tension with our extended family this year, so it was very refreshing to read your post. :)

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  8. Thanks, these are handy - It's particularly difficult to be kind to someone who (you feel like) tries to make you look bad but there is no point taking on board that persons issues as your own (or acting the same way in return).

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  9. Oh girl! This is a great post! So much wisdom! I know the holidays are not as simple for those who have stressful family situations.

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  10. These are all really great tips! Holidays are tough at times because you have a lot of different personalities when it comes to families. All in all it's remembering why you are together in the first place. If there is drama talk it out in a respectful manner (if possible). I'm glad we've never had any drama in my family during the holidays. I hope it stays that way!

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  11. These really are great tips! It's hard to be with family sometimes and we need to remember to show love and grace! <3

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  12. Such a wonderful reminder for when the holidays get a bit stressful! Thank you for sharing :)

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  13. Great post and thank you for the tips! I'm visiting family for the holidays and let's just say I have not seem them in yearssss - so this was definitely a helpful read before it actually happens!

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  14. All great points as usual, Kristin! I'm so glad that you pointed out pride here. It's something that not many of us tend to acknowledge, but we need to. Just because a family member is rude or difficult does not mean we are any better. Talking things out is SO key here, too.

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  15. So much good stuff here, Kristin! I think #1 is especially important -- if we know we feel frustrated but don't take time to examine exactly why/what the person is doing to cause this, it's impossible to come up with a good solution.

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  16. Lovely worded post! You tie in the biblical verses so well :)

    www.madisontaylor.co

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  17. Great tips! I have some crazy family. They are EXTREMELY wealthy, and can't understand why my husband and I can't jet off to Paris this year to spend Christmas with them and it has mortally offended them. I can't wait to see how the holidays go this year. eeeek. Thanks for these helpful tips!!!

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    1. Oh my gosh! WOW! Just wow!
      I am very thankful that my family isn't like that but I hope the holidays go well and that you can enjoy your time!

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  18. I make it easy and avoid the difficult family members haha my biological mom is really the only issue. My husband's only met her once and I've seen her maybe twice since my parents divorce in 2013. So we just don't interact with her often. My husband and I only surround ourselves with good, positive people. Thankfully the rest of our family is absolutely amazing and both sides love and support one another. I couldn't ask for more :)

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  19. This is awesome! We really don't have many family problems thankfully but I think this post would be so helpful to those who do have problematic family members during the holidays.

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