Thanksgiving; the holiday title, sets the tone for this family tradition. We gather around the dinner table with family and friends to enjoy the festivities, food, and fun with thankful hearts for all of God’s blessings. But for some of us, the holidays can lead to friction and even a few family feuds. Uncle George might have a bad habit of trying to calm his nerves with a few too many beers which cause him to be sarcastic and a bit of a bully. Maybe mom or dad focuses on the negative being overly critical of how you set the table to how long to cook a turkey. Whatever the issues we may face when we gather, it can leave you emotionally exhausted and a little sideswiped wondering what just happened. I call that “Tripenonfam” or the “Squabble Effect”. Here are four suggestions to help you keep the “thanks” in Thanksgiving and limit family friction.
Start dedicating time to pray specifically about your family gathering and for each person who is coming. Ask God to give you a heart of grace and to keep your mind on positive thoughts and your words filled with love. Philippians 4:8; “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Focus on the good in others and, if you must, redirect the conversation to the positive side. All in all, we desire for everyone to have a blessed and joyous time together focusing on being with those we love.
Don’t get Dramatitis
When we are around family it is easy to get caught up in the old drama of past hurts. If you know a certain conflict is bound to come up, plan and pray ahead. Think about how you will handle it. What will you say or do, if anything? You may need to disconnect from the emotional commotion to make this year’s family interaction as pleasant as possible, especially if small children are there. Now would be a good time to take out the trash, get some fresh air, or run to the store for that thing you forgot to get. Don’t unleash your resentments for past wrongdoings and don’t allow relatives to do the same to you. It’s okay to pull someone aside into a private space and give a kind heart check to put bad behavior in check. Ephesians 4:31,32; “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Keep the kids out of the conflict
Maybe you are divorced, separated, or remarried and the kids are visiting multiple families with you. This can be awkward and cause some anxiety for all concerned. There could still be unsettled agreements or lingering resentments between adults. Sadly, children are often caught in the middle of bickering parents. This only adds more turmoil to all family members involved. Be the example of Christ’s love for your children and others. Redirect and refocus. Try to keep adult issues between the adults, to honor this time of year for the children’s sake. Children watch everything you do and they listen to everything you say. How you treat others is a behavior they will mimic into adulthood. Be kind, patient, and tolerant of others. Matthew 5:9; “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Make realistic expectations
Many times we look back on Thanksgiving past and yearn for family and former experiences. Perhaps that feeling of closeness and fellowship you experienced as a child has wained in adulthood, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of the occasion. Yesterday is gone but today is here for you to choose the right attitude. Be realistic when planning your gathering, and don’t let your loved ones’ shortcomings ruin your attitude of gratitude. Remember, your mood will determine the outcome. Live in the moment God has created for you to enjoy and be blessed and glad in it (Psalm 118:24).
You can rise to the occasion and give a gift of love, hospitality, and acceptance. Be the example of Christ’s love with confidence, knowing that your Heavenly Father has done the same for you in His son Christ Jesus. 1 Corinthians 13:13; “And now these three remain; faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Despite hardships, loss, or disagreements, family and friends are a gift from God. Be the person you expect others to be for you. We are better together.