I regularly talk to and pray with people who find holidays challenging. For a variety of reasons, special times of the year can feel more like a burden than blessing to some folks.
While there's usually some positive anticipation associated with the arrival of a holiday, there can also be apprehension. Holidays can put people in situations and in environments that are pregnant with tension and stress. Old wounds can be re-opened and new wounds inflicted when people find themselves in the same room or around the same table with a family member or acquaintance with whom they have some bad history, unresolved issues or continuing strife. The slightest negative comment can spark conflicts or awkward moments. It doesn't take much to turn, what should be a pleasant gathering, into a war zone.
How can you make your holidays more pleasant? How can you bring something of value, health and maturity to your holiday gatherings?
Take a look at something Jesus said:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. — Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
Jesus taught that our happiness — our blessings — are linked to our commitment to “peacemaking.” When we make peace with others, we're behaving as a child of God should behave — we're acting in a way that is becoming to someone who is a part of God's family.
How do we do this?
Here are some practical steps you can take that will help you become a “peacemaker,” especially in situations where conflict could easily erupt this holiday season:
- P = Be positive. Decide that you're going to be a positive person and a positive influence in the atmosphere and interaction. Pray your attitude into a positive place.
- E = Be an encourager. Speak encouraging words. Generously sow encouraging comments. Go the second mile in being an encourager. Hearts open up when we speak affirming, appreciative and encouraging words.
- A = Be an active listener. Focus on asking others about themselves. Show sincere interest in the people present. Don't be as concerned with telling your stories, sharing your opinions or pointificating on your ideas as you are in finding out the stories and needs of others.
- C = Be careful. Carefully consider your conversations. Don't let yourself get trapped into an ugly and old way of interacting. If you know that a certain topic or tone is going to create anger, cause hurt and pain or ignite controversy, don't go there. In short, think before you speak. It's amazing how many problems we avoid when we put our mind in motion before we put our mouth in gear!
- E = Elevate the environment. To “elevate” is “to raise to a higher level; to lift up; to promote to something greater and better.” Don't “go low” in your interactions. Take the “high road” of grace, patience, forgiveness and maturity in your behavior and spirit. Don't let others bring you down. Choose and lovingly work to lift others up!
Make a decision to make the most of your holidays. Find God's blessings by being a peacemaker!