By Debbie Altman
I don’t know about you, but as the holiday season approaches, our family can sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed and frustrated with trying to figure out how, when, where and with whom we will celebrate. Considering immediate family, extended family, friends, work schedules, multiple church services, in-laws, young children’s bedtimes or naptimes, varying traditions and values, etc…one of the most sacred of holiday seasons can be tainted with tension. Surely not your family Debbie?! Yes, our family. Just trying to keep it real! So, there we are talking about Christmas and there is tension, and that just feels so wrong!
Well, I don’t have any perfect solutions, because human relationships are not perfect. But good relationships are possible, and so I remind myself of some of the principles of healthy conflict resolution that I’ve learned and continue to practice at. They are so simple, but not always easy…and they are not just valuable for navigating the holidays…they are Biblical and work all year long!
- Initiate open conversation
We have to talk about it. Avoiding the conversation does not make it better. Start talking about it early in the season so decisions are made before things get even more stressful. Allow each party to share their desires, traditions, and feelings involved. Hear each other out. This is not necessarily a group conversation, but individual conversations need to occur. Each person’s opinion is valuable and should be heard.
- Truly listen to each other
We can always think we are right and our way is best until we sincerely hear another perspective and value the person that it’s coming from. Empathizing with the history or feelings involved with another’s tradition or expectation helps to soften our hearts.
There’s no one like Jesus to add the oil of the Holy Spirit to help things run more smoothly!
Hopefully, everyone can give in a little, and remember that the important thing is loving each other, and being together somehow, some way, some time. Keeping the focus on the “spirit of giving” that is Christmas, has to translate into our holiday planning. It’s funny how hard that can be! It can be so much easier to give a gift, than to give of ourselves!
- Have fun anyway!
If you find yourself alone for a holiday, fight the urge to sit around your house and feel sorry for yourself! I did this once and decided I would not do it again! Find something non-traditional to do…go to a movie, go to the beach, go away, eat Chinese, or really get crazy and look for some friends or families who also find themselves alone…trust me, they are out there…and do something together.
Getting along and having healthy relationships is something we always have to work at, and the holidays can really stir the pot! But make it a goal as we head into this season with its many stressors, to do our best to live out the scripture,
“Work at getting along with each other and with God.” Hebrews 12:14 Message
What do you do to ease the pressures and truly enjoy the holidays? I can’t wait to hear your stories!