There is a relative I do not particularly enjoy spending time with. My life doesn't fit the particular narrative that has been written for me, and there is usually tension. My accomplishments are met with disdain, and he seems to make it a point to disagree with every topic of discussion I try to bring up.
I've tried to avoid hot-button issues, but nothing seems to work.
Since you're reading this post, it is safe to assume that you, also, are dreading spending the holidays with relatives for one reason or another.
There are a number of reasons you might dread the holidays with relatives. Your relatives might cross boundaries or treat you like a child, they may override rules you've set with your children, or they might nosily pry into your life. Some may make you feel like a failure and others may insist your life decisions are mistakes. Some may revive old sibling rivalries and competitive comparisons, making you feel as if you are twelve years old again.
It's important to evaluate what is causing the dread and if it is too destructive or toxic to subject yourself to. Careful prayer and discussion with those you trust may be in order. You don't owe anyone access to you if doing so will cause harm to yourself or those you love.
If your situation is not that dire, but you still feel that you'd like some distance this holiday season, identify whether the stress of the event would negatively impact you and if you need a break. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:23
You say, "I am allowed to do anything"--but not everything is good for you. You say, "I am allowed to do anything"--but not everything is beneficial.
If the experience is not beneficial for you, you do not have to put yourself through it. You may feel like attending every party next year, but for the time being, the best thing for everybody might be that you take a break from the festivities. Forcing yourself to do something and ignoring that whisper in your soul is not always the best idea and cause problems later down the road.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting boundaries and making space for rest or for even establishing the holidays with your own family.
If neither of these are what you plan to do, and you're still wanting to attend the holidays with the relatives, keep something in mind. Families change over time. The photos I took in 2010 have members who are no longer living. People will be born, and people will die, and holidays are a good time to connect with everyone, as our time together is finite.
But what to do about Cousin Larry or Sister Sue?
Consider this. You likely have a certain amount of confidence about yourself and your choices when you're not in the presence of these certain relatives. You've likely shed the cocoon of your childhood narratives to become a butterfly without having day-to-day contact with certain family members as you've progressed. They only have the old stories and the old expectations of you that no longer fit.
Your old political views, skills, talents, dreams, and desires may be things that you've outgrown, but they're still holding on to labels or ways of being that aren't you. It is also very possible you are dealing with people who don't want to validate you and who don't wish to see you as productive.
You may be chaffing under labels that are assigned to you and that push your buttons. For example, this person is pushing a narrative that I am uneducated, unsuccessful, and not particularly gifted at anything. That hurts me, and it makes me want to keep my distance, but instead I've opted for friendly indifference.
I realize this person is likely insecure, easily threatened, and is set in his ways. I am not going to change his mind, and I am not going to try. I am not going to try to impress him either or get him to 'validate' me. I don't have to 'fit in' to the story, because my story is being written every day in a different realm from which he lives, and it may be the same for you.
Jesus didn't strive to please people who criticized him; His concern was pleasing the Father. He did not accept praise or criticism from human beings, and He went about His Father's business. Paul writes about his view toward people-pleasing in Gal. 1:10:
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
This holiday season, remember that you are valid and that you know the reasons behind why you live the way you do. Even if you have made mistakes, others don't have the right to judge you harshly. Ask God for patience and the ability to extend grace, and see it as an experience to learn from this person how not to treat others. See it is a cautionary tale of what can happen when you project insensitivity.
Ask God for strength and try to be the better person, because even though it is hard, there is a blessing in being a peacemaker.
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