Too Much Togetherness

A friend and I were talking about the complexities of showing kindness to strangers, especially in this sometimes scary world we live in, when she said, “You know… It’s not really strangers that I have the most problems with.  It’s my family!”  We shared a knowing glance.  “Christmas dinner is always the worst. I am not looking forward to it this year.”

Maybe it’s because we’ve achieved a level of too much comfort around each other, but for whatever reason, families often treat each other worse than they would a complete stranger. (Can you imagine the Good Samaritan judging the casseroles at the next family reunion?)  Seems like someone always ends up getting his or her feelings hurt.

Wow! You’ve lost weight! Susan, look how much weight your sister has lost. Maybe you can get some pointers.

Um. Seriously?

David, we’re so glad you made it! We heard about your divorce and we’ve all been praying for God’s forgiveness.

Not. Productive. Dialogue.

If you’ve ever had anything like this go on—even something as simple as the “Are you still single?” question—you know how grating or stressful a family get-together can be. And, unfortunately, for many families things are complicated even further by substance or emotional abuse. It can run the gamut from mildly irritating to downright spirit-crushing.

No matter what you read to the contrary, there aren’t any words of advice that are going to work in every situation. Families are as unique as their individual fingerprints. And if going home is abusive, you don’t have to go. Don’t make anyone guilt you into something that isn’t healthy and right for you.

The one thing everyone can do is pray for help in discerning the best decision in your situation, and pray for each person individually. Keep in mind that you AND your family members are children of God. We may not all act like it all the time, but we all are. Sometimes that means we need to request or give an apology, refuse to let the mildly irritating be a roadblock to our love, or—in some cases—put some space between you and your family for a while. That last one can be tough, but sometimes it’s the best.

Whatever you do, hold on to your joy and REFUSE to let anyone steal it from you. Even your grandmother who is appalled that you don’t iron your t-shirts. Bless it.

Thank you, Father, for always being there for me, especially when I’m frustrated or hurt by those closest to me. Help me to practice patience when needed and act in strength when necessary. And help me to see the weaknesses in myself so that I don’t harm others with my words or actions. Amen.