Guard Your Family Members This Holiday Season
With the holidays around the corner, I decided to write to you about the importance of guarding our relationships. This will be an intense time over the next few weeks celebrating with loved ones, and let's face it, not so loved ones. The family dynamic can be challenging to many of us.
Families are filled with many colorful characters, all with their own egos, issues, and viewpoints. Maybe you have a weird uncle or alcoholic brother or gossipy mother-in-law. An outspoken cousin or off-the-wall niece, whose political leanings makes everyone squirm. Maybe there are unspoken rules that have to be followed in order to avoid WWIII from erupting over the dinner table. Or maybe topics that have to be completely avoided so that "so and so" won't leave the gathering in a huff and ruin dessert.
I was reflecting on this issue the other day after talking with a friend, whose siblings, along with their parents, had made a very big family decision without consulting or talking with my friend and her husband. You can imagine she was very hurt and there is a lot of tension between all of them than ever before. There is a rift. And it's painful.
Family rifts are not what God intends for our families and relationships. They are the very opposite of unity and cohesion and godly intention, because they damage and cause pain and sorrow. Rifts are almost nearly caused by one thing and one thing alone -- a lack of godly love. Godly love is a higher kind of love that is not natural to any of us. It is a sacrificial kind of love that is selfless and hard to do. God wants families to be strong, and when Christians promote and practice this love, they will help to guard and protect the unity and health of the family.
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, a set of verses that are typically either used in weddings or, if you were to use it in the biblical context, the use of spiritual gifts. In this passage, Paul described this kind of love using simple, descriptive words, that if we can grasp and put into practice with our family members (and any and all of the people in our lives), can result in loving them the way God wants us to, which may mean this holiday season could be one of the best ever. Let's take a look:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails ..."
Just look at these descriptors and what its telling us to do and not do: be patient, be kind, no envy, no boasting, no pride. No dishonoring others, no self-seeking, no quick temper, no digging up things of the past. No delighting in evil, like gossiping, but instead celebrating the truth. We protect each other; we trust each other; we hope together and persevere together. We never fail each other or let each other down. We are there for each other.
Relationships can be tricky, especially around the holidays. I want to challenge you this holiday season to clothe yourselves in love and practice the things Paul talk about in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Think about each of the family members you will be with over the next few weeks. Take a few minutes and personally plug yourself into each of the words and see how you can use this to love your family members better. Here's what that might look like:
I will be patient with Aunt (so and so) this year, even though she talks to much.
I will be kind to Cousin (so and so) even though I disagree with her political views.
I will not envy my brother this year, even though I wish we could afford the big trips he takes.
I will not boast about my kids and their successes or the new car we just bought.
I will not dishonor my parents or my spouse.
I will not seek after what I want, but rather the things that will benefit others.
I will hold my tongue and not get easily angered when my sister tries to embarrass me in front of the group.
I will not look for hurts of the past inflicted on me by (so and so).
I will not join in on hurtful speech or gossip, but I will steer the conversation back to positive things about people and celebrate the truths about them.
I will not let my guard down and I will guard and protect my family members.
I will talk to them about trusting one another and will myself become more trustworthy.
I will promote hope in the areas where they are hurting.
I will pursue and persevere with them throughout my life even though they don't.
I will not fail them. I'll be there.
Yes, families are interesting and can be very frustrating at times, but they are critically important to our well-being and sense of identity and community. Family relationships need to be guarded and protected at all costs, even if that means you can't speak your mind or you need to listen to ideas and viewpoints that make you wish you were somewhere else. Happy Holidays to each of you, and may this be a year of many to come where your family is more of all of these things.
Until next time,
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P.S.S. Check out previous Life Is Relationships issues. Click here to visit our blog.
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