Friday, December 16, 2016

What to do when the holidays + family = stress

Family? You know, that group with whom you possibly share some DNA. They mostly consist of people you didn’t choose, but folks you are kind of stuck with all the same. If you’ve never had a major blowout, or wished you could avoid a family member who broke your heart, or you don’t have have an embarrassing relative, you don't need to read any further.

I truly love my wife and kids (along with their significant others), and our grandchildren -- but once you begin to widen that circle to include the rest, well, some of them drive me a little crazy. I imagine with the holidays now in full swing, you might be experiencing more family-time yourself, and this extra exposure can be slightly stressful for some of us. What can we do?

For starters, let’s all just be honest. Admitting that our families stress us out isn’t necessarily bad. You aren’t evil because you struggle with putting on a happy face over sharing a meal, or cringe at the thought of spending time with certain relatives. There’s so much sibling rivalry and family strife these days, it’s almost as if the label “dysfunctional” is moot. So, you don’t have to pretend to be something you aren’t.

How could this be? How could the people we are supposedly closest to, hurt us the most? How could loved ones wound us the deepest? I heard a fancy philosophical phrase that explains this whole thing: It is, what it is.

There’s probably more to it than that, but simply put, this is the way it is. Cain killed Abel. Joseph’s brothers tossed him in an empty well then quickly sold him into slavery, soaked his clothes in blood, and told their father he was probably gored by a wild animal. The Bible is filled with stories of families feuding with each other, and yet God continually fellowships with and uses fallible people to accomplish His will.

Maybe some of our strife stems from our selfishness; maybe there’s some blame to be laid at the feet of our fragmented society, I don't know why for sure. Pointing fingers probably won’t make anyone feel any better. Besides, only the people who have the greatest potential to bring us the most joy can truly hold the unique position in our hearts which can also bring us the greatest pain. Strangers might be able to lie to us, but we only feel betrayed by someone who is close to us.

Families disappoint us, they wound and they hurt each other. Some families simply fight and no amount of therapy or counseling seems to help fix them. They lash out at each other, they are mean & hateful, yet they are bound together all the same. Therefore, we as individuals need to be as healthy as possible.

Being a healing presence might just be the best present you can give your family this season.

You don’t have to repeat the same unhealthy patterns that have been modeled for you by people who share your last name. You don’t have to retaliate or payback family members who have mistreated you. You can be liberated, you can be free, you can choose to love and to bless despite the mess. You are not a prisoner of your heritage, you are someone who is promised full redemption and complete transformation as a child of God.

Taking a break from certain parts of your family for a season of life isn’t wrong, in fact sometimes it's necessary. Still, remember, this life is short. None of us are promised a tomorrow. Once a loved one is gone, it’s too late to tell them how much you loved them regardless of the problems you’ve shared.

This is a great time of year to reflect and to consider how you might rebuild some broken relationships, since the holidays make for a great excuse to reconnect -- if you so choose. These days can provide a safe way to reach out to those who we miss or we know we’ll miss once they are gone. And remember, if you aren’t sure who the wacky one in your family is, it might just be you.

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