I love cheesy Christmas movies.  My husband claims I’m “obsessed.”  Something about the happily-ever-after ending that gets me every time.  And the endings are always the same.  The snow is falling.  Everyone’s smiling.  The hugs.  Then the camera pans over a warm fire in a perfectly decorated fireplace.

And then there’s Christmas for the rest of us.

The fighting.  The crying.  And a house decorated with more enthusiasm than skill.  Maybe your family doesn’t fight, but there’s tension.  The looks.  What people aren’t saying.  Steering clear of certain people.  Dreading dealing with others.

Being related doesn’t mean you’re going to get along.  And it’s not just your family.  Every family has issues.  Even the ones that look perfect.  Personalities clash.  Relationships change. 

You can’t control what your family does, but you can choose how to respond. 

God tells us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).  Notice the words “If it is possible.”  Sometimes, it’s not.  You can’t control what others do.  Your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins might still have pain from their own childhoods and that shows up in mean ways.  You do NOT have to be around abusive family members.

But then God says “as far it depends on you…” So what can you do?

Recognize that what they say and do isn’t about you.  People function out of their own experiences, needs and hurts. And hurting people hurt people.  Watch closely – people reveal their pain.  Their sense of being inadequate.  Of feeling unlovable.  When you realize their words and their choices reflect their own pain, then their rude behaviors don’t sting as much.

Forgive. We forgive because God first forgave us (Colossians 3:13).  This doesn't mean you excuse their behavior or that you want a relationship.  Forgiveness is simply a choice to let it go and not “get them back.”  Forgiveness puts you back in charge of your emotions instead of letting someone else’s choices control you.  Forgiveness allows you to make choices about where to go and what to do without thinking about the person who hurt you.

Love them anyway. Love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice - like being patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13). You may not have a loving feeling toward your sister or grandparent right now, but can you choose to be patient and kind?  You don’t have to like or respect someone to love them.  We all mess up and God knew we’d irritate and hurt each other. He reminds us again in Ephesians 4:2 to be patient with each other.  And that unlovable family member?  Well, maybe the best gift they get this Christmas is patience and kindness.  That’s love. 

So, even though we may not belong to the “perfect” family (or even a normal one!) we can still enjoy a great Christmas.  We can choose to love and to let go.  And who knows?  This may just be the best Christmas yet!

About the Author

kristenhodges

Kristen lives in Florida with her awesome husband and 3 energetic kids. She earned a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Michigan and is a psychology professor at a local university. In her free time, she hangs out with family and friends, volunteers at her church and laughs as much as possible. She has a passion for Jesus, helping others and anything chocolate. Follow her on instagram @kristen_hodges_cg