Holidays are joyful, right? Not always. We enjoy gathering, giving and celebrating but there’s another side to the story.
Romantic holiday expectations rooted in childhood clash with life realities. Gaps between expectations and real life heighten pain and trigger mental health problems during festive seasons. That’s why Elvis’ Blue Christmas remains a staple of holiday music.
Some causes of holiday pain cannot be helped. If you’re grieving a serious loss you may simply want to survive the upcoming revelry. For help, read The Empty Chair.
However, we may be able to stop the holiday pain caused by broken relationships. Estrangement from people we care about depletes joy. Unresolved conflicts make gatherings tense and awkward. Peace seems better.
God wants us to live in peace with others (Mk 9:50). He calls peacemakers “blessed” (Matt 5:9). Do you need to make peace with someone or resolve a problem before the holidays begin? If so act now. Problem solving gets harder once holiday stress sets in making people tired and emotionally sensitive.
10 Steps that Promote Peace
1. Take the Initiative
Don’t settle for living with a strained relationship because you don’t know what to do or think a problem has no solution. Don’t blame, play the victim and wait for the other person to make things right. Become a change agent yourself and start the ball rolling toward peace (Matt 5:23-24).
God wants us to live in peace and stands ready to help. Tell Him about the problem (Phil 4:6-7). To discern what God wants you to do, reflect on His Word, watch what happens and listen to what you hear other believers say.
3. Self Examine
It takes two to create a bad relationship. Harriet Lerner’s book, The Dance of Anger describes dysfunctional relationships as a dance done by two people. Identify your contribution to the problem. Cultivate humility (Eph 4:2).
4. Clarify Your Message
Before trying to talk to the other person, decide what you want to say (Eph 4:15). Your message should a) define the problem, b) describe your feelings and c) suggest a solution.
5. Shrink Your Message
Develop a concise message that’s to the point. Take your laundry list of hurts and complaints to God, counselors and trusted friends. Write a therapy letter you intend to burn. Do not dump complaints and accusations on the person you want to draw closer.
6. Forgive Hurts
Forgive hurts and wrongs. God commands this (Eph 4:32). Relationships won’t heal without it. Forgiveness can take time but will come if you choose to forgive over and over every morning until a hurt no longer matters.
7. Hone Your Skills
Knowing how to talk about a problem increases your chance of being heard and understood. Acquire needed skills.
Refer to the PDF, How to Talk about a Problem without Starting a Fight sent to you when you joined this site or join today to receive a copy. Ask a counselor for guidance or read Mending the Divides by Huckins and Hybels.
8. Request a Meeting
If possible, meet face-to-face with the other person. Texts and emails leave too much room for misunderstanding. Approach the meeting ready to share your message and do some serious listening. If you can’t meet in person, try a virtual meeting via Skype, Zoom or Facetime.
9. Repeat Steps 1-8 as Needed
You may want peace to before the other person feels ready. In an earlier post I explained how change occurs in stages over time. If your first peace-making efforts fail, repeat Steps 1-8 as often as needed.
Consider involving a mediator or counselor to help. What seems impossible today may happen tomorrow! Persevere and press on with hope (Romans 5:4).
10. Accept What Happens
God calls us to live at peace as far as it depends on us (Romans 12:18). If you’ve repeatedly taken the above steps to no avail, pat yourself on the back. You’ve done what you can! Work to accept what hasn’t changed yet. Follow Max Lacado’s advice offered in Anxious for Nothing – let go of “if only” and focus on “already.”
Go ahead. Fight for peace. Do all you can to mend troubled relationships and make this your best holiday season ever!
Let me know if these steps help you. Also, please share this post with anyone you know who’s hurting over a broken or strained relationship.