We have come through the first of many holiday dinners that will be coming in the weeks ahead. This includes obligatory meals at work as well, with people we don’t always choose to be with, but must deal with on a regular basis. I don’t want to put our families in this category because hopefully, we have more good feelings for them than we do some of the people at work. But some of the ways we need to deal with them may be similar so we can actually enjoy our time together and it won’t be miserable.
Yes, Yes, holidays and family can have a very happy mix!
My answer to the above question is a positive YES, the mix of holidays and family can be a happy one. But it often will take attitude adjustments at the very least, on our part. It may also take some thinking and planning ahead and other adjustments as well on the part of others too. I’m doing a series on this topic both for my own edification as well as yours. In fact, I had it all written up in 4 segments and felt I had to start over again because my starting place was way too negative!
For some of you, the idea that holidays and family can mix positively is an idea that is revolutionary. You may have family members that get drunk and add additional layers of misery to your times together that include abusive language that no one wants to hear…or have their children be around. That is beyond my experience. I’m very sad for those of you who have had to endure this. For others, you can’t imagine time with family that isn’t delightful. For the majority of us, time with family tends to be a mixed bag…and sometimes you, like I, can be one of the problems.
There is no question that time together as a family can be a challenge when we are not used to being with each other on a regular basis. We tend to love the idea of being together more than the reality of it. Even when all of us are Christians, we deal with brokenness that many of us aren’t even aware of. And others of us get impatient with.There is no question that time together as a family can be a challenge when we are not used to being with each other on a regular basis. We tend to love the idea of being together more than the reality of it. Click To Tweet
What about the family members who are at different stages from us or are different from us in ways that clash?
We have the family members who brag too much about their or their children’s accomplishments. It can be irritating on its face, but if we are struggling in our own career or our child is struggling, we really do NOT want to hear it. If those struggles are known to the others, we feel they should just be quiet and stop rubbing in their success. If we haven’t made known our own struggles, it simply angers us that they go on and on and our jealousy grows. Why did GOD allow them success and not us? They don’t deserve it…and on and on the words march on in our heads like soldiers.
Meanwhile, they can’t understand why we get quieter and quieter…and less communicative. They feel they are just catching everyone up on what has been going on with their family. They can’t help it that things have been going well for their kids. Have people forgotten the awful year they had last year…or a couple of years ago? It feels good to have happy news this year. It is frustrating when some of the family can’t enter into their joy when things are going well this year.
And the same goes for years when some are struggling with infertility while others get pregnant. Or when some fall in love and others have break-ups, or nothing happening on the love front! Or when some have major health struggles and others have healthy years.
How do we find ways to celebrate the success of some members and not feel threatened? How do we find ways to grieve with family members who are struggling and find time to comfort them and yet not go overboard on either side so that the whole time together is overwhelmed with the issues of one or two members? We don’t have to have our whole family time spent on hearing about the success of one group or feel like there is a competition either. Is my success bigger than your success? No one wants that!How do we find ways to celebrate the success of some members and not feel threatened? How do we find ways to grieve with family members who are struggling? Click To Tweet
Finding ways to appreciate the joys and grieve the trials of each other, especially when we aren’t in that stage, is a challenge.
But in Christ, it is possible!
I don’t know how to do it, or rather make others do it. I just know that each family needs to find a way to do it. The family dynamic in every family is very different. I think that the ones who are successful or more stable at the moment, need to find ways to reach out to those who are struggling to encourage them to express their struggles in a healthy way. If your family dynamic is one that is only able to talk about happy things and successful times, you may need to find ways to discuss the hard things as well.
There are some questions available that may seem artificial at first, and if you don’t like this set, there are many available online that are similar. You can choose them to change the direction of the conversation at the table or like a game when sitting around after the meal over dessert. They will open up conversation and move it to unexpected places…so be prepared!
It may help to know where your family limits are as well. Is your family group a safe place to discuss a person’s struggles with faith? with their theological issues? With their growth or struggles in any areas? Do you need to discuss these in smaller groups other than the main table?
Don’t allow the disagreements that come up over family dinners, whether religious issues, political or any other types,
to cause rifts in your relationships. Nothing is worth that!
Is your family able to make the distinction between political parties, political views and what is Biblical? If not, it is probably better not to discuss politics at the table. There isn’t a vote that is a Christian vote. There are Christians who vote for both sides for Biblical reasons. We need to realize that no candidate is a perfect one…nor is any political party. All have major flaws. Listen to Christians who vote on the opposite party you do to learn why they do it. It is very interesting to learn their thinking. One of many websites I have read is this one. (There are many!)
But do NOT get into a fight to convince them your thinking is the right way. You may not agree with the reason they have gone their way, but it is helpful to hear them. It will help your relationship to hear them as well. If you aren’t willing to listen to an opposing view without trying to convince them that your way is best, don’t ask them what they think and definitely don’t make cutting remarks about their candidate or views.
If no one sets the example of listening, there will never be an opportunity for your views to ever be heard. If you are a parent, your views have probably been heard often. So make time to listen. Express ways some of your views have changed (if they have.) Realize that no political views are worth causing blocks in your relationships.
This is where I’m going to stop for today. I see I have gone on too long. Next time I’ll talk more on how to prepare for these times together as a family.
Action Plan: What are ways your family prepares/has prepared for time together that positively impact your time together? How have other families you know done it well? What do you personally, plan to do to improve your family time together at your next get-together? I’m especially talking about your own ways of processing what happens, attitudes of thinking when coming to times together, attitudes toward specific individuals who tend to irritate you specifically.