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Dreading the Holiday Family Get-Together Because of Relatives You Can’t Stand
by Sherri Bergmann

Does thinking about being in the same room with certain relatives make you chew your nails to the quick weeks before the family Christmas gathering?

There’s “Volcano” Uncle Victor who erupts without warning and spews lava of contentious words that scald all in his path. Critical Cousin Chris enjoys trying to make you feel insignificant. Acidic Aunt Rachel is controlling and manipulative. Rude Grandpa Ralph is disrespectful and insulting. Alcoholic Arthur can’t control himself after a few drinks and the celebration stops when he gets started.

A mixture of difficult people, or just one, can turn a Christmas celebration into a nightmare. Pastor Phil has three recommendations to prepare for a Christmas with difficult people. 

1. Pray well in advance about the event and the person(s) you are concerned about.

2. Love them. 

3. Pray to see them as God sees them.

If you are the host, he also advises to connect with them ahead of time and be frank, in a very loving way. Let them know you would love to have them there so long as they don’t explode, drink, insult – whatever it is that harms others – so everyone can have a good time.

However, if they come and break their promise, take a biblical approach to ending the harm.

Biblical Wisdom for Dealing with the Difficult Ones

1. Lovingly install a “three strikes and they’re out” guideline. While it may hurt to have to tell a difficult person to leave, it may be necessary for a peaceful holiday.

“As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, know that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” Titus 3:10 (ESV).

“Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended” Proverbs 22:10 (NIV). 

Continue to pray for and help build up Uncle Arthur. When he’s ready, welcome him back. The Prodigal Son was welcomed back by his family after he hit rock bottom.

2. Reflect Christ in your response. If Cousin Dana insults you at the dinner table, and all eyes are on you to see how you’ll respond, reflect Christ – the Prince of Peace. 

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” 1 Peter 3:9 (NIV).  (See also Prov 26:21.)

If you respond to an insult with an insult, you are pouring gasoline on a fire. When you respond to evil with good, you extinguish the flame.

3. Overlook the offense. Proverbs 19:11 (NIV) reveals, “A person’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense,” and, “The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult” Prov. 12:16 (ESV). 

Don’t take their negative attitude personally. Difficult people are difficult with everyone. For whatever reason, they are hurting inside and have created their own reality that causes them to inflict harm. 

4. Pray.

Jesus said to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and pray for them (Matt. 5:44, Rom. 12:14). Those who seek to harm others are enslaved by deception. Pray for them.

The two greatest commandments Jesus gave us are to love God and to love others. He didn’t exclude anyone. 

5. Don’t wait for an apology to forgive.  Maybe Uncle Arthur is irritating because of an unresolved problem between you two. He won’t talk to you because of something you did, or vice versa. It is common to think, “I’ll forgive them when they apologize.” But, they may never say they’re sorry, nor ask for forgiveness. Forgive anyway.

Colossians 3:13 (NIV) tells us to, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Basically, cut them some slack as you would like someone to cut you slack when you’ve screwed up. That’s the beauty of mercy (Matt. 5:7 KJV).

6. Refuse to play their game. Some love to argue because they like to stir things up. Be meek, keep your strength under control. Don’t pass the ball back. 

When Peter cut off the ear of a soldier who arrested Jesus, first, Jesus condemned Peter’s action. Then, he healed the man’s ear. He loved his enemies.

Three Verses to Promote Peace
Three verses to help illuminate the love of Christ and promote peace at your holiday gathering:

“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” Romans 12:18 (NKJV).

“When a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” Proverbs 16:7 (KJV).

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” Luke 2:14 (KJV).