Have you ever played the word association game? Lets try~I say chocolate, saliva develops as you sternly bark….’get me some!’ Or, I say ‘fruitcake’ and you say, ‘that wouldn’t even make my dog drool. Move on.’ How about if I say, “family holiday gathering?” Be honest. Do you start perspiring even though it’s 65 degrees? Your eyes start to glaze over as you painfully realize Christmas is just around the corner. You are about to spend hours with people who don’t really like you. In fact, the family tree may be the only reason they gather with you at all.
This time of year we ponder Jesus as light of the world. But, Matthew 5 states that we, Jesus’ followers, are the light of the world. Is it possible to be the ‘light of the world’ spending time with family members? Yesterday while I was shopping, I gave the lady behind me in line 2 of my extra coupons. You would have thought I had given her a $20 bill. She was elated. That was easy. Why is it easier to be a light for Christ with a stranger? What happens to that thoughtful spirit in me when I get around my relatives? What is there about us that can be so stubborn about demanding our way when we are with family? Do I demand more from my relatives? Am I a poor communicator? Do my actions corroborate my words or discredit me?
Recently I had to answer these questions when I received a email from a family member that left me shaking. Angry. Hurt. Angry. Disgruntled. Angry. Hopeless. Did I mention angry? It, however, was not a righteous anger. I had to ask myself why the letter caused so much anger within me. Perhaps it was because some of the things in the email were painfully true. Initially, I chose denial fervently building a case for myself of all the things in the letter that were not true. Not a good plan. Fortunately, after much prayer and seeking counsel, I snapped out of denial mode.
Many of the things in the email were not necessarily true, but the result of poor communication. But, regretfully, some of the things were true. My pride did not want to see where I was not being Christlike. Baggage from past interactions prevented me from loving as Christ calls me to love. But when I sought counsel and realized my actions were causing pain in the life of someone, I discovered that I needed to confess those things to God and ask His forgiveness. More importantly, I needed to ask my relative for forgiveness. That, my friend, was not an easy task. If I hear the word apologize the first thought that comes to my mind is, “Gulp, how do you eat an elephant?” Well, as I tell my girls, “you eat an elephant one bite at a time.” What do the first bites look like? Let me suggest the following.
- Read Scripture. Perspective is everything and nothing provides perspective like God’s word. We need perspective when asking if there is something I have done to cause conflict in this relationship.
- Go to the Person. No emails or texts. Communication is 90% non-verbal and only 10% verbal. If distance prevents a face to face interaction, make a phone call.
- Listen. Listen. Listen. Did I say listen? Our tendency is to defend ourselves. Resist this temptation. God is your defender and protector.
- Admit Wrong. I had to say, “You are right. I have___, would you please forgive me?”
- Make a Commitment. Tell the person you will try and not commit the offense again and take the necessary steps to back up your words. For me, the culprit was poor communication. I made a commitment to call in the future and not rely on others to communicate for me.
Does it work? A few weeks after our interaction, our families had the chance to get together. Instead of dreading the interaction, I went with hope that things would go better than they have in the past. I felt God’s peace and joy in doing what He has called me to do. Was it easy? No. Were there times I needed a breather and needed to be alone? Yes. But, I can honestly say I had a great time and am not dreading our next family get together.
What about you? Do you need to go to someone before that family holiday gathering and make things right? If so, here may be some utensils to help you eat that elephant one bite at a time~
Go to the person
Listen. Listen. Listen
Make a commitment
I would love to know how your ‘meal’ went over the holidays. Please comment or email and let me know.