For many, Christmas would be the most wonderful time of the year, if it didn’t involve that certain unbearable family member. You know – the overtly outspoken, cynical family member that has the made it his or her personal Yuletide mission to get underneath your skin? Yes, that family member.
A lot of people venture into the coming week, knowing they are going to experience the same fights, negative exchanges and tense debates they encounter every Christmas.
Here are few practical steps to keep those from happening, so the holidays can be a pleasant time for all parties.
Limit your time with those with whom you have issues.
It is okay to not like everyone in your family, but you should be polite and courteous to each and every member. Christmas is a time for families to come together, but keep in mind the duration of the get-together. It is counter-productive to spend prolonged amounts of time with someone you do not enjoy. Do not avoid anyone, but be aware of how much time you spend around the person that grates on you.
Lower your expectations.
Many go into the holidays thinking, “This year is going to be different.” And although I admire optimism, it will likely not be the case. It takes a lot of work for things like that to change, and if that work hasn’t happened then the likelihood is nil. It is important to be realistic going into these situations because disappointment only makes things worse. The holidays are not the time to try to mend a broken or hurt relationship.
Try to disconnect about Christmases past.
Since these get-togethers occur every year, and we may not see many of these family members at any other point, it is very easy to hold a grudge. Whether it was his or her snide remarks about your children’s behavior last year, the comment about your dried-out cake five years ago, or his or her political leanings during the last election, it is in your relationship’s best interest not to bring past baggage and woundedness into the current year.
Practice “amused detachment.”
Many people know that family Christmas is going to end up being dramatic. As a result, they end up casting themselves as the lead role in their own drama. By practicing “amused detachment,” you make a conscious decision not to allow yourself to become involved with the theatrics and instead sit back and enjoy the show.
Allow yourself an escape.
If you sense things are headed south – a conversation is becoming slightly heated or perhaps someone mentions something slightly controversial – allow yourself an escape and politely excuse yourself. Go into the other room to help someone with something or go on a walk and take a few breaths and then come back once things have subsided.
Avoid controversial topics.
Many people find thrill in controversy and confrontation. If this is you, please remember that not everyone else is wired that way, and your desire for this can be destructive and hurtful. If this is not you, someone in your family very likely is this way. Remember the general rule that it is best to avoid politics and religion and other potentially controversial topics.
Christmas is a time of unity, peace on Earth and goodwill. By seeking fights, attempting to disrupt and bottling past grievances, you are defeating the entire reason for getting together in the first place. Although it has been an incredibly divisive year, there is no reason that needs to come into your home during a time we celebrate peace.
Stephen Arterburn M. Ed. is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries, a teaching pastor Northview Church and host of the nationally syndicated New Life Live! radio program. Stephen is co-author of Take Your Life Back, which released from Tyndale in October 2016.