|Where did 2021 go? This year has flown by, and I sense we are in a rebuilding process from the heartache of 2020. I say that because life still doesn’t feel normal to me. If your family dynamic is anything like mine, I know we still have some work to do. And regardless, it is always a good time to work on our relationships.
One of God’s blessings is our desire to belong to a group — a place where we can be loved and accepted. The first group we belong to is our family. Hopefully, it is one we can count on in the toughest of times. Last year, we posted these 10 Ingredients for Successful Family Holidays. I believe they are still relevant for today.
1. Honor One Another – This means we do not have to agree, but we hold one another in high esteem. We want to first seek to understand the other’s feelings, fears, and concerns; understanding that we do not have to agree. Our willingness to put ourselves in their position and see their point of view will show honor, respect, and love for one another.
2. Always Protect the Relationship – Our relationships are something we should fight to protect. They are so precious, and they give us life. Many times, we take them for granted and do not realize just how precious they are. To protect the relationship means that we have lines we will not cross, we know when to pull back, we know when to just hug it out and let the words stop.
3. Hot Topics – When we are in a relationship with one another, we know each other’s hot topics. Many of us know exactly which buttons to push to get someone upset. We also know which buttons to avoid to keep them from getting sore. If you know the hot topics, stay away! In fact, make a mental note of what they are. Hot topics are easy to recognize: the person who has been activated will talk faster, louder, and can usually “hold a conversation” by themselves. Many times, you will hear an apology after a hot topic monologue. Stay away from these topics.
4. Start in the Safe Zone – A safe zone is a place for topics that do not create heated emotional responses. Brainstorm ideas for safe zone topics ahead of time. How are the kids doing? How is work going? Where would you like to vacation? If you must talk about something that borders the danger zone, establish a border around the conversation. For example, I know how you feel about your children returning to school, but have you heard when they might go back to school? Remembering a past holiday, family event, or funny story are some of the best ways to stay in the safe zone. Sometimes, we need to have difficult conversations, but start out in a safe zone and move towards the difficult conversation.
5. Listen More Than You Speak – You know the saying about having two ears and one mouth? That you should listen more than you talk. This is pretty good advice. How you listen is essential. When you listen, do you listen to understand what they are saying? Are you reading their body language? Are you affirming their feelings? Your silence does not mean you are formulating your next talking point. Be careful not to just listen for breaks in their talking so you can talk. Ask questions.
6. Say the Encouraging Thing – Put away the criticism. The world provides enough of that each day. This should be a place for encouragement. If you are proud of them, speak it out. Do not leave encouraging words in your head. The best test for your encouraging words is to measure it against something you would like to hear yourself. As parents, we may think we need to correct or criticize “wrong” thinking. Many times, your family members are already considering it. Try and encourage good behavior and overlook bad behavior.
7. Your Reputation May Proceed You – Some of us may be in a position of having a bit of a reputation for stirring up trouble. Whether the reputation is founded or imposed upon you, we may have more work to do. Ask for a fresh start in a relationship; always welcome the fresh start. We may need to address the past to put someone’s mind at ease. For example, you may think that I would react like this, but I really think and feel this way. Be, and stay, humble.
8. Forgiveness – Be ready to ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness should be like cleaning your closets. We tend to hold on to old hurts when we need to purge all those old feelings and extend forgiveness. Be willing to ask and accept forgiveness freely. The old feelings do not have to be worked out entirely before you accept an offer of forgiveness. “I am sorry” goes a long way. Remember, do not attach a qualifier, like “I am sorry but you…” Just a simple, “I am sorry.”
9. Have Fun – Remember to not take yourself too seriously. Be the first to laugh at yourself. However, also be aware that humor can be hurtful. Many times, humor can be used to cover up hurt or to attack someone in a passive-aggressive manner. You can lighten the mood, but be careful you are not making light of things that are a serious concern for your loved ones.
10. RESOLVE – Decide now– the 2021 Holidays will be the best yet!
BONUS: Pray before you go! This one is last not because it is least important but so you will remember. One of the best ingredients is to take the Spirit of the Lord with you to family gatherings. He is the creator of family and you will want to be prayed up! Pay attention to the still small voice that will guide you through your day. You may be surprised at how well it goes.
Enjoy your family and friends this season. Count them as your greatest blessings. This is a season of building lasting relationships of trust, love, and honor with our families. Love your family and hold them as tight as possible. They are precious!
Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.
I Corinthians 13:4-7 (TPT)