Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Right?
And, it is, for many of us. Truthfully, however, this time of year is especially stressful for some. If I can be so blunt, Christmas for some means there will be family, work and social gatherings where we are forced to be around people with whom we have very strained relationships.
The holidays expose many people to broken relationships, hurt feelings, grudges from the past. Many will have to be around people, by default, that they wouldn’t choose to be around unless those people were blood relatives, in-laws, or “friends” (who aren’t your friends), but come with the package of celebration. They will be there—and the reality of that causes many to be less enthusiastic about celebrating.
That’s true, isn’t it? And, the truth hurts sometimes doesn’t it?
What should you do? How should you respond to the one who has hurt you the most or who always seems to say the wrong thing, or who is—honestly—even mean at times? How do you respond to the most difficult relationships in your life as a follower of Christ?
I want to encourage the Biblical approach.
Here are 7 suggestions:
- Bite your tongue – When you are tempted to snap back, don’t. Sure, it will be difficult, even seemingly unfair at times, but see it as spiritual discipline training. (James 1:26)
- Extend grace – Forgive. Let go of a grudge. Even though it may not be received well and nothing may change in the relationship, it will change you. (1 Peter 4:10, Colossians 3:13)
- Put on another’s shoes – Anyone who hurts you has a story. Usually they were hurt too by someone. Remember, hurt people hurt people. Think about where the other person is coming from before (or as) you encounter them. (Philippians 2:3-4)
- Practice patience – Be honest, some relationships require more patience than you thought you had, don’t they? But, isn’t that what we are called to do as believers? It is a “fruit of the spirit”. (Colossians 3:12-14)
- Exercise humility – When we humble ourselves, we may get taken advantage of at times, but God always rewards humility. Who knows? It may be the break point in the relationship. (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6)
- Consider a higher purpose – You may be the witness to them in how you respond that spurs a change in their heart. Don’t be afraid to believe in miracles. The Bible is clear—we are His witnesses—into the uttermost part of the world, even among those who can sometimes hurt us the most. (Acts 1:8)
- Pray for them – The last one is sometimes the most difficult, but oh how biblical! Prayer releases the burden to the burden bearer—the One whose yoke is easy, the One who paid for your sins. Prayer can even change the dynamics of a relationship. Pray for the awkward, difficult, shattered and broken relationships in your life—and the people who caused them. In the most tense moments this holiday season, slip away and pray. (Matthew 5:44)
All that said, I feel a disclaimer is warranted. You don’t have to subject yourself to abuse. You can remove yourself when the situation is threatening. But, many times we remove ourselves only because we are uncomfortable. And, if we humbly surrender to His purposes for our lives—and live as He would have us live—we may incite change in others.
Apply these suggestions liberally, as needed this Christmas.