The holiday season is a time of joy for many. From traveling to spending time with family you haven't seen in years, the holidays reminds us the importance of togetherness. For some, however, every single second is dreadful.
We all have that family member who is super judgmental and has an opinion about everything.
The one who's caused pain to the family.
The one who has an “unforgivable” past.
The one who loves to start a fight.
The one who's the family outcast.
In some situations, we may be the family member that falls into these categories. Whatever the case may be, holiday family drama can cause tremendous stress and anxiety. There is nothing worse than knowing you will be trapped in a home with people you don't get along with for hours. However, let’s make a decision to for this year to be different.
Today, I want to empower you with 7 strategic moves for creating an environment of peace this holiday season:
1.) Raise your expectation
Have you ever gotten yourself upset about a situation before it happens? For some, we are already planning and preparing for things to go wrong this year. We have even created our comeback lines for if “they say this to me.” The issue with this mentality is that we tend to project these feelings of frustration right into the environment. This leaves us in a position where we are overly defensive and come “ready to fight.” Its going to take intentional and a perspective change to make this year better than ones before.
It's time to shift your family dynamics and it starts with you.
Instead of believing the worst and preparing to experience aggravation, use this year to be different. Try going into your family dinner unrehearsed for drama. I believe if you put in the work and choose goodness, humility, and honor over strife, this season can set the foundation for years to come! Let’s not filter our experience through the past but be intentional about creating new dynamics from this day forward.
2.) Pray strategically
Starting today, pray into your next family gathering. Prayer is what will be needed to break the tension in the room. If you are a believer, why wouldn’t you pray over the family you have been entrusted with?
We must pray for our family with the heart of Jesus and faith for a change.
Strategic prayer can include:
• Prayer for wisdom to say the right things.
• Prayer for love when encountering difficult people.
• Prayer for opportunities to share your testimony.
• Prayer for discernment to see when someone’s in need.
• Prayer for peace when tension arrives.
3.) Think before you speak
Recently, a friend shared with me an acronym, T-H-I-N-K. Before we speak, we must ask ourselves will it be reflective of God’s heart. If not, how can rephrase our phrases to not hurt others. Though we often think we should be able to say what we want, how we want, we must pause and THINK!
1.) Is it True?
2.) Is it Helpful?
3.) Is it Inspiring?
4.) Is it Necessary?
5.) Is it Kind?
These five questions can help us filter our words and be the light in the room.
4.) Be the hope.
When my family does anything, we see it as mission work! We plan to pray for our family. We plan to treat people with love. We plan to inspire. We truly embrace that we may be the only time people encounter Jesus throughout the year. The Bible calls us His ambassadors or representatives. How we treat people will directly influence how they see the God we serve. Let’s take this seriously and be the hope in the room in our words, mannerisms and actions.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:13
5.) Spend time with the outcast of the family, on purpose.
This is a tough one for many. We all have the family member that’s been ousted for their behavior or that’s so strange people tend to keep their distance. This year, I challenge you to find the loner in the room. Find the person that everyone normally disregards and talk to them. Even Jesus spent time with those that other religious people would have avoided at all costs.
Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with such scum?" Matthew 9:10-11
Christ was intentional about inviting everyone to the table.
No person was disqualified from spending time in the His presence. He saw past the outward sin and was looking to win over their hearts. This year, I challenge you to do the same. In my own life, I cannot count how many times God asked me to spend times with those others has rejected. For me, they are the ones who need the most attention and we should be the ones God can trust to treat them with love.
6.) Love like Christ, because you must.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35
In other words, if you don’t love people, no one will believe you are a Christian! Lack of love is why people tend to think Christians are hypocrites. We serve a God of love, yet do not reflect His character. This holiday season is the perfect time to love people beyond just being cordial. We must give the radical love of 1 Corinthians 13. This love endures, is patient, doesn’t boast, and chooses to move forward from the past. This is love in action.
”If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.” 1 Corinthians 13:7
7.) Reserve The Right to Disengage
There will be times when you must walk away, be quiet, or completely leave a family gathering due to tension. We all have that one family member that pushes every button. Rather than let them win and have power over your mind and emotions, choose to disengage. Here are some key phrases you can add to your conversations when things get tense.
“Thank you for your advice, I will pray about that.” (Stops the conversation)
“I didn’t know you felt that way, I will keep that in mind.” (Acknowledge pain and the opportunity for change)
“Can we pick this conversation up later?”
(Reminding the person this isn’t the best time)
“I understand what you are saying, it reminds me of a time when I was or when I read ...” (Relate and shift the conversation)
“I am so sorry, I have to get ready to go in a few, I have to run and say my goodbyes to everyone.” (Abrupt the conversation and leave)
You have the right to not be mistreated or talked down to. As much as we want to inspire and spend time with our families, we must also recognize when the tensions are so high that it becomes unhealthy to stay.
Never allow anyone to push you to the point where you are out of character.
Reserve the right to disengage.
With these 7 tips in mind, I think we can radically change this year's gathering. Let us pray strategically and act in wisdom with every person we encounter.
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