As we think more about preparing for being together as a family, or with difficult people at the holidays, here are some helpful tips. I don’t feel like an expert at all. Some have worked better than others at different times. For me, the key tends to relate most to my attitude, not to the specific events that happen.
1. The most important things are the basics: get enough of the right things…sleep, decent food and exercise.
When we are with family, it usually means we are doing the traveling…across time zones. When that happens, you have to be responsible to get the sleep you need, drink plenty of liquids, make time to exercise and eat the right kinds of foods. No one will do that for you. At holiday time, that can be a bit of a challenge, but you can do it. If you stick with these basics, you will find that you will have less struggles with family interactions and perseverating over words or actions that hurt your feelings.
2. Make a point of praying over the relationships that cause you the most struggle and pain.
Don’t minimize them. Before you get together with your family or other difficult people, pray for GOD’s help and wisdom in your interactions with your family. What you want is the ability to show your family how you truly feel about them. Ask Him to help you do that. For some family members, saying it isn’t the most effective way to do it.What you want is the ability to show your family how you truly feel about them. Ask Him to help you do that effectively. Click To Tweet
I find that often, I get distracted by all that is going on that I get careless. I don’t pay attention. I let opportunities slide by. When I go home, I regret that I let many opportunities pass because I wasn’t paying attention to openings that came up for me to enjoy visits with my children or grandchildren in ways that would have been meaningful to them. I think if I made it a more definite matter of prayer, I would be more aware…because I have done that in the past and it has happened. This adds to your challenge.
3. Trust GOD’s providential timing.
Sometimes, He makes opportunities for conversations that need to happen and we are able to walk right into them. At other times, it seems He is closing doors on the same conversations that we would like to have, but the timing isn’t right. Then, suddenly, a few weeks, 6 months or a year down the road, the opportunity for the conversation we wanted in 2016 comes along in late 2017 and it works out well. That is why praying about these visits and the commitment to GOD’s timing instead of ours, is so important.Sometimes, He makes opportunities for conversations that need to happen and we are able to walk right into them. At other times, it seems He is closing doors on the same conversations that we would like to have, but the timing isn't right. Click To Tweet
4. Be the first to take steps toward reconciliation of relationships.
This is an area I have not done well in the past. Sometimes, I improve and make progress only to fall back. This will never be an area where I will feel that I have it together. I think I am fairly intuitive when it comes to relationships. But I don’t always know what to do or how to navigate once I decide there might be a problem.
I also want to be calm when talking to the person so I think through where I have offended them…even if I am hurt, so I can have a better perspective on what happened. In other words, I need to see what happened from their perspective even before I talk to them. I also look at what caused me to get angry because it can often gives me a clue where I have been hurt…or at least perceived a hurt.
When I talk to the person and do some fact-finding, I often learn their true perspective and find that I have even more empathy for them. (Yes, there have been very rare exceptions.) Biblically, we have no room to wait for the other person to come to us.
When it comes to reconciliation, there are two illustrations given to us. One is the person who realizes he has something against another and must go and be reconciled. (Matthew 7:1-5 ESV, Colossians 3:12-14 ESV). The other is the person who realizes someone has something against her and must go and be reconciled. (Matthew 5:23-25 ESV, Matthew 18:15-17 ESV) So basically, we have no outs when it comes to reconciliation with our family and friends.
5. Be intentional in the way you think about your relationships.
In the past couple of years, I have been careless. I have been focused on my husband who has been sick. Well, either that or I have been escaping into a cocoon of sadness to avoid thinking about some of my losses. Conventional thinking might be that I’m old now and I’m going through a hard time. I’m entitled.
But that isn’t true. I’m a Christian. I’m not entitled to get lazy and sloppy. I’m not entitled to forget why I’m here. I’m here to glorify GOD. I have a new heart now that I am in Christ. I have a new nature. It seeks after GOD and desires to please Him even when I don’t always live out my desires. So I can be intentional. I can love with a love like that of Jesus. It will never be that pure of course, but it is possible to love in ways it was never with my old nature. I once thought that one of my strengths was in my relationships, but over the years I have become more and more aware of just how much that doesn’t come naturally to me!
So if there is any encouragement in Christ,
any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2: 1-8 ESV