Peacemaking Through the Holidays
This blog will look at 3 approaches to peacemaking through the holidays, ways to support loved ones, and some tips to keep a healthy perspective on the holidays.
The holidays are upon us. This brings an extra dose of stress and high expectations for many. Being around family can be wonderful even with all the stress. But for some this is the worst time of year.
For some people the holidays remind them of dysfunctional parents, abuse, or ridicule. These are things one might associate with people who dislike or hate them. I have heard it said, as an excuse, “We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love you.” This is the dumbest nonsense. The translation of this statement is “I treat strangers better than you.” If family holidays remind you that strangers are treated better by your family than you are, then we have some tips to keep you sane. You need peacemaking through the holidays.
I want to encourage you to make peace where you can. Matthew 5:9 says; “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” In his book, “The Peace Maker”, Ken Sande outlines three ways we work for peace. These methods include:
Peace-Faking is about avoidance. Escape responses to conflict include suicide, running away, and denial. Participating in Peace-Faking involves a cover up. The cover up fails to address the real issues of the conflict. Let’s face it, secrets keep you sick. Like a heavy coat of make-up on an ugly woman, a cover up becomes a public face. Collaborators and sympathizers all play along with the cover up and call it a relationship. People who are Peace-Faking put on a happy face and slog through the holidays.
Peace-Breaking includes attack responses to conflict. Attack responses are focused on winning. They provide the attacker a sense of control and safety. Verbal, emotional, and even physical attacks are common. These approaches prevent peace from being established. People who are Peace-Breaking are out to win the conflict rather than preserve the relationship. Peace-Making responses seek to value the relationship over winning, or looking good.
Peace-Making is hard work. It involves stopping ongoing attacks and exposing cover ups. Stopping attacks and exposing cover ups feels like an attack response to some. However, disrupting the status quo is necessary for change.
Peacemaking may involve overlooking an offense and offering forgiveness. It may involve extended talks that restore a sense of mutual respect, concern for one another, and an understanding of how to avoid what causes the conflict. Most families have these issues because they failed to negotiate specific stages in the family life cycle. For example, if going home makes you feel like you’re 12 then you’re not free to be your adult self. You have work to do. It would be easy to blame your parents for these constraints. The truth is we teach people how to treat us. You need to set boundaries and define new roles and expectations. Your parents may or may not have what it takes to adjust.
There are times when a Hallmark moment just isn’t going to happen. Abuse and neglect have such deep wounds that making peace means they don’t have an ongoing relationship. This typically involves exposing the cover up or stopping the ongoing attacks. These steps establish a sense of safety for those who have been hurt. Safety is a powerful form of peacemaking through the holidays. You will have work to do beyond this and it will require counseling, a growing faith, and a community of support.
Many Christians get stuck between loving and respecting their parents and their own needs for love and respect. This can happen when we get confused. Peacemaking through the holidays involves resolving this confusion. Let’s consider the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. Jesus, in his infinite creativity, made them a wonder to behold. He put them in our world and we are to live with them. The rattlesnakes camouflage is beautiful. The sound of their rattler alerts us to danger. Rattlesnakes have fangs like hypodermic needles; they deliver deadly venom to their prey. I have great respect for them. I am at peace with them. I don’t want to kill or harm them. The key to our relationship is a safe and respectful distance.
Focus on the process of peacemaking through the holidays. Establish boundaries for safety and respectful communication. Be clear in setting boundaries. Use the words “yes” or “no” to describe what you will or will not do. Don’t say you would love to spend 3 days together when what you are comfortable with is lunch in a public place. Take specific steps to encourage your soul. Focus on what love really is. Love is a healing balm for the soul. Use it. Become familiar with love, review these bible passages repeatedly:
- I Corinthians 13
- I John 4:16-18
- Romans 12:9-13
- I John 3:10-17
- Matthew 22:34-40
If you are the spouse of someone who deals with this around the holidays you can be a real support.
- Don’t encourage them to return for more abuse.
- Don’t minimize what happened in the past.
- Don’t down play their fear and anxiety.
- Pray with your spouse about finding peace and healing.
- Pray for God’s will in the situation.
- Adopt a family that nurtures, respects, and loves one another.
- Struggle with them to find peace, boundaries, safety, forgiveness, and freedom.
- Focus on the process of peacemaking.
Romans 12:18 says, If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Peacemaking through the holidays doesn’t happen by blaming others or expecting them to apologize. Recognize that not everyone works for peace. The blessing, being called God’s children, applies to those who work for it. Peacemaking through the holidays requires you to own your stuff. Work for peace in relationships and in your own heart. Cultivate love even for your enemies.
The Pinnacle of the Holiday Season
The pinnacle of the holidays is Christmas. Remember that while we were at war with God, he made a way for peace. I want to wish you a happy thanksgiving, a merry Christmas, and a prosperous new year. May the gifts of a loving God be received with joy by his peacemaking children.
Dr. Todd Davis is a Biblical Counselor, Marriage and Family Therapist, and a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor. He is available for public speaking, small group training, and consultation. Leadershop Ministries helps people and groups thrive in the midst of daily life and business. Todd and his family make their home in Knoxville, Tn. He can be reached at DrToddDavis@LeadershopMinistries.com