Now that the holidays are upon us, there’s more of an expectation to spend more time with family. And as wonderful as holidays are, there’s also a very real increase in the stress level, due to…spending more time with…the family.
The beginning of the pandemic in 2020 taught a lot of families how to learn to handle the new normal: being with each other all the time! However, it’s safe to say that although Covid isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, for the most part, in terms of family time, we’re back to our normal of pretty much everyone doing their own thing.
The reality is that, even in a family, with the normal, day-to-day grind and busyness of life, people aren’t spending a lot of extended time with each other; this is due to school, after-school athletics, clubs, and jobs. But when the holidays roll around, there’s a very real possibility that, due to school breaks, people will be spending a lot more time—crammed together. Combine that with the significantly shorter amount of sunlight, and, for many, this is the perfect recipe for a conflict.
Not a Fan?
Now, before you learn the ten tips for surviving the holidays, remember: these are being shared with you from a Christian perspective. Now, honestly, even if you aren’t a fan or follower of Jesus, or have no interest in becoming a Christian, following these tips make good logical sense, and are an emotionally healthy and mature way to live your life. I’m convinced that living like a Christian (not just during the holidays, either) will make your life better and will make you better at life! Trust me. I’ve tried life without Jesus, and it didn’t turn out great for me, and, honestly, I don’t know anyone who would say that life without Jesus has been successful for them, as well.
The Ten Tips
So, how can you make sure to avoid (or at least minimize) the conflicts with family? Well, here’s the top ten tips, not just to survive the holidays, but to even thrive during them:
1. Understand that we’re all sinful and no one is perfect! “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned” (Romans 5:12, NLT). “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23, NLT). This means that, no matter what you do or try, there will always be some sort of conflict, fight, or disagreement, simply because those things are inside of all of us!
2. We need to treat everyone the way we want to be treated. “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (Luke 6:31, NLT). There’s a reason why this is called “The Golden Rule”. Living out this truth will help you to steer clear of all sorts of family foolishness.
3. We should all be quicker to listen rather than to speak. “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19, 20, NLT). I learned a long time ago that, for the most part, we listen in order to gain enough information to defend ourselves in an argument and in a conversation, we listen long enough to know when someone stops talking—so we can start talking about ourselves!
We all need to learn to listen for understanding of what the other person is saying and what they’re feeling. I find it interesting that the Bible used the word “listen” and not the word “hear”. From my perspective, as a counselor, it’s easy to hear. For the most part, most humans have the ability to hear—in other words, their ears work. But God wants us to listen, which means we must be digging deeper in our interactions. The vast majority of people get angry because they don’t feel listened to, heard, affirmed, or valued. Additionally, we all need to learn to more effectively control our tongues.
Check out this truth-bomb:
For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring (James 3:2b-12, NLT).
4. When people are pushed, what will naturally spill out of them is what they’re full of. “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45, NLT). I remember when I was a kid and used to visit my cousins in Puerto Rico. I remember spending the entire summer with my fifth grade cousin, who was in the midst of the ravages of puberty and had a testosterone-laden sense of humor. It didn’t matter what kind of situation we were in, he found a way to make it inappropriate, because what was in his heart ultimately kept spewing out of his mouth.
5. No matter how difficult family get-togethers may be, remember: they won’t last forever. I know that I’m taking this next text out of context, because (hopefully) having a family get-together isn’t causing you to weep, but you get the general idea: “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5, NLT). It’s easy to get overwhelmed when dealing with an awkward aunt, an unfriendly uncle, or even a nosy niece–but it’s important to focus only on getting through today. Jesus said it best: “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34, NLT).
6. Learn to be quick to forgive, rather than to be hateful. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31, 32, NLT). The simple fact is that no matter what you try, there’s bound to be some sort of conflict, and when it happens, you’ll have a choice to make: forgive or hold a grudge. I want to encourage you to forgive. It’s a much lighter way to live. However, forgiveness doesn’t always mean that you have to directly interact with someone. The truth is that if that family member is an unhealthy, abusive, or toxic, then the wise decision is to stay away from them. You can forgive someone, love and pray for them, and stay away from them. It’s all about choosing to have healthy boundaries.
7. You don’t have to always say everything you’re feeling all the time. Remember, you don’t have anything to prove to anybody. Just keep it to yourself and talk to God about it. Trust me when I tell you, that me and God get extra-tight during family holidays! “Too much talk leads to sin.
Be sensible and keep your mouth shut” (Proverbs 10:19, NLT). “Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent” (Proverbs 17:28, NLT). “Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back” (Proverbs 29:11, NLT).
8. Sometimes the wisest thing that you can do is to simply avoid certain people. In any gathering of people, you’re going to come across those who love to keep stuff stirred up. It’s like they’re not happy unless they’re starting or feeding drama. And interacting with those kinds of people is just like lighting the fuse on a bomb. “Starting a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so stop before a dispute breaks out” (Proverbs 17:14, NLT). If possible, it might be best to avoid the situation altogether by choosing carefully whom we associate with: “Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people,” (Proverbs 22:24, NLT).
9. Stay away from people who are drinking too much alcohol. The Bible doesn’t expressly forbid drinking alcohol or call it a sin, however, the logical understanding is that no amount of alcohol is good for a person, therefore, the more alcohol that someone consumes, the worse off it will become for them…and for those around them. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me horror stories about how they were at a gathering, and, as we say in the South: “someone showed their behind!”
Believe it or not, you don’t need alcohol at a gathering to have a good time. In fact, alcohol typically just complicates a situation. Check out the relevant insights that the Bible shares on this subject (and I bet that as you’re reading, you’re probably thinking about at least one person whom this applies to):
Who has anguish? Who has sorrow? Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining? Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns, trying out new drinks. Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is, how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down. For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake; it stings like a viper. You will see hallucinations, and you will say crazy things. You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea, clinging to a swaying mast. And you will say, “They hit me, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t even now it when they beat me up. When will I wake up so I can look for another drink?” (Proverbs 23:29-35, NLT).
10. When conflicts arise—and they inevitably will–learn to be the bigger person and don’t fight evil with evil, because of the simple truth that God’s got your back and He’ll make sure that justice is served.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.