Your Guide to Surviving Family Dysfunction over the Holidays

It’s the holiday season, which means tables filled with turkey, stuffing, ham,  mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberries and pumpkin pie. Oh, and let’s not forget heaping sides of criticism, cattiness and unresolved conflict. Hail, hail; the dysfunctional gang’s all here!

I know what it is to be haunted by the Ghost of Holidays Past. I’ve washed down my Thanksgiving turkey with salty tears. I’ve dodged the constant onslaught of barbs sharper than a carving knife. I’ve known dysfunction. And I choose not to propagate it.

So how do you avoid holiday drama when your guest list has a history of histrionics? Honestly, you can’t. But you can set a good and godly example, especially among those family members who think you’ve gone off the deep end because of your faith in Christ.

But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor Him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect. Keep your conscience clear, so that when you are insulted, those who speak evil of your good conduct as followers of Christ will become ashamed of what they say.—1 Peter 3:15-16

I’m going to teach you a holiday survival tool: GRACE.

G: Be GENEROUS. If you’re celebrating the holiday at your home, make your guests feel at home. Remain constantly attuned to meeting their needs. If you’re celebrating at someone else’s home, go out of your way to be the kind of guest they want to invite back. Be complimentary when you can be sincere. Show interest in what interests them. Be helpful, and be like a duck so everything rolls off. Let love overcome the multitude of sins you may endure.

R: Be RESPECTFUL. Holidays can be a fantastic witnessing time, but don’t force feed your faith down the throats. You can, instead, talk about how the Lord is working in your life, and even ask how you can pray for that person if such an offer would not be offensive to her. Also, if an extended family member is celebrating a different religious holiday, acknowledge it.

A: Be AWARE. Honestly, you can’t be the only one who dreads extended-family get-togethers. Reach out to that person you see keeping to herself. Show kindness to the one who is often the butt of criticism. Smile at the one who perpetually wears a frown. Be a peacemaker.

C: Be CREATIVE. Sometimes we fall into the same unhealthy patterns when get-togethers follow the same mold. Mix it up. Add a holiday craft, such as a thankfulness chain. (Everyone  writes something for which she’s thankful on a strip of paper that connects to a growing chain you can hang across the room.) Put tokens underneath random chairs for a drawing to win candy or other small gifts. Play a game after dinner, or pull out some instruments and make music together.

E: Be ETERNITY-MINDED. Let go of temporal irritations and let Christ radiate through you. You may be the only reflection of Christ your family members ever know. Make them want what you have by being a faithful, loving, giving, forgiving ambassador for Him. It’s not about you. It’s about Him. Be grateful—even for your dysfunctional family.

By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.—John 13:35

3 thoughts on “Your Guide to Surviving Family Dysfunction over the Holidays

  1. Terry Flynn says:

    I agree we just had a family dinner that I DID NOT want to be at, but I went, When I got there I found a chair out of the busy part of the house, and I was nice and keep quite, just ate my meal. But hey I went and that was big.