Unfortunately, it is not always “the most wonderful time of the year”.
At times, it is the most stressful time of the year. Between the endless shopping trips to overcrowded stores, the social and professional events that take over the calendar and the preparations for hosting family meals and receiving guests, the Christmas seasonprovides countless opportunities for conflict and friction. It does not have to be this way.
Christmas is the beginning of the story of Salvation; not the beginning of fights and tension.
If it were a storybook, you would read “once upon a time, a baby was born in a manager who would save the world by dying on a cross”. Nowhere in this story do you read that the Three Wise Men were stressed because they could not get Amazon to deliver their gifts to the right address or that the Shepherds’ wives could not agree on who would be bringing the main dish for the potluck supper on Christmas day.
How can we avoid unnecessary conflict this year and enjoy the company of our loved ones?
Anticipate family conflicts:
Naivety has never served anyone. Optimism thrives when it relies on a healthy dose of realism. Thinking that you will cruise through the Christmas season without any misunderstandings, crushed expectations or the inevitable family squabble will just set you up for failure. Once we acknowledge that this is the time of year when hidden tensions float to the surface, we will be better equiped to confront difficult situations with a clear mind and a calm spirit.
Proactively Plan how you will handle conflict as a family unit:
Are the same problems resurfacing year after year? Is there a sense of dread when the names of certain family members are mentioned? Is there a power struggle that erupts when it comes to which side of the family is hosting which meal?
Discussing these topics before they become issues will eliminate a lot of tension and will set the stage for more peaceful family gatherings. The idea is to create a “safe zone” where you can calmly discuss the irritants that you will be confronting and how this will be handled as a team. Once the words “your” is replaced by “our”, a lot of tension melts away.
“Silence is of gold” should be your new mantra:
Every family has one, an aunt/uncle/ cousin/ that speaks their mind and whose tongue is not dripping with honey. Knowing that this person will be at the family dinner is enough to cause one to stock up on antacids! The best strategy when confronted with this family member is to nod and smile.
Don’t engage, don’t think of a clever comeback, just nod, smile and walk away. This is not a defeatist strategy, this is humility, another lesson that we learn from our Lord during Christmas. Ignoring our pride’s request for revenge and accepting snide comments with a smile and silence will transform the gathering.
This is easier to accomplish than transforming the personality you are dealing with (let me spare you the grief, stop wishing that they will change, they probably will not- baring a miracle).
May this Christmas season bring you and your family closer together and may it be a time when we all reflect on the true importance of the event: our Lord left His throne to be born in a manger to save us.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,for they will be called children of God.”Matthew 5:9