2 Important Ways to Love the ‘Turkey’ at Your Table

Stress Thanksgiving

I don’t know about you, but I’ve both loved and hated the family gatherings that come with Thanksgiving or other holiday celebrations. Typically, this is because of the work that leaves me and so many others I love stressed.

But sometimes the stress come from awkward and friction-filled, even resentment-laden, relationships that we have with those who gather at our table.

Stress Thanksgiving

[bctt tweet=”Each relationship mixture makes it ripe for problems due to its complexity alone. #Thanksgiving” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

Looking deeper into this issue, I believe it happens because there are either resentments or conflicts that have never gotten resolved or brought out into the open, or both! We can live just fine as long as we are not all in the same room at one time—dining elbow to elbow. 😉

When I endeavored to begin this blog series—Loving Strong through Holiday Stress—I wanted to lean into Scripture and the admonition to love as a way to prevent and deal with the stress of the holidays. So I’m pulling my inspiration from a private Facebook study that I’m offering on the “6 Shades of Love” found in Scripture.

And today I want to focus on one shade—loving our enemies—as a way to deal with the stressors and issues that often occur during holiday times like Thanksgiving.

Now, calling family members “enemies” might sound harsh or judgmental. But sometimes that’s how it feels. So for the sake of clarity, let’s consider anyone that we are angry with, or are in conflict with, an “enemy.”

One day’s focus in the “6 Shades of Love” study was based on Luke 6:27-28, where Jesus spoke these words …

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

My (now deceased) mother had one such troubling familial relationship back in the day. Her mother-in-law—my paternal grandmother—struggled to accept or love my mom.

Now, my grandmother didn’t come right out and say harsh and hateful things directly to my mom for all to hear. No, she used passive-aggressive tactics to undermine the relationship between my dad and my mom.

She did this in a way that looked loving and sugary-sweet on the surface, so as to avoid any suspicion that she held anything against my mom. My grandmother, in essence, treated my mom like an enemy in many ways, doing so like a hidden terrorist might. As you can imagine, this almost always put a damper on our family gatherings.

So … how do we love someone who we feel like is “our” enemy?

Here are 2 Ways to Stretch Our Love Muscles (based on Luke 6:27-28)

1. Find Ways to Bless and Do Good to Your “Enemy.”

This is a lot harder to do, than to say or believe. But maybe when your MIL says something snarky to you about the tenderness of your turkey, you could say something humble (not sarcastic) like,

“Yeah, I still haven’t figured out how to cook one like you, mom! Do you think you could let me in on your secret for keeping your turkey so moist?”

Yes, this involves eating a heaping plateful of humble pie. It might taste a bit bitter going down, but it will leave a sweet taste in your “enemy’s” memory—potentially breaking down a relational barrier. It also avoids creating more stress and friction for all to feel and see.

[bctt tweet=”We show love in action when we swallow our pride and love like Jesus. #eathumblepie #Thanksgiving” username=”BethSteffaniak”]

Other ways to bless your enemy might include:

  • Listening to understand, rather than to be understood.
  • Offering heartfelt affirmation.
  • Initiating an affectionate hug or two.
  • Asking questions that demonstrate genuine curiosity about your “enemy’s” preferences and/or past experiences.

2. Commit to Pray for Your “Enemy.”

Do this long before the family gathering, during the gathering, as well as long after the gathering.

God will use your prayers to not only bless and soften your “enemy’s” heart, but to soften your heart as well. Be aware that this “heart-softening” takes timemuch like the roasting of a Butterball Turkey! So patience, consistency and persistence are necessary to this spiritual transformation.

As a life-coach I provide for my clients a Forgiveness Prayer (Exercise and Template) to use with any offender in mind. When we give ourselves to this process, it can truly transform the relationship, as well as lowering our level of stress everyday and not just when our enemy/”turkey” is at our Thanksgiving table.


What other positive choices have you taken to bridge the gap in a friction-filled relationship?


What aspect of forgiveness is hardest for you to understand and/or apply?


Here are some lovely linkups I join – Inspire Me MondayMoments of HopeLiterary Musing MondaysJennifer Dukes LeeBreak Through Homeschooling LinkupCoffee for Your HeartSitting Among FriendsFaith and FriendsFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday


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22 responses to “2 Important Ways to Love the ‘Turkey’ at Your Table”

  1. Thankful to report that there will only be one turkey at our table this year, but I recall a few years with at least two extras, and it makes for some challenging digestion. Thanks for offering strategies and encouragement toward a Christ-like mindset!


    1. Yes, I think most of us who have lived any length of time, Michele, can recall one of “those Thanksgivings!” 😉 And yes, digestion is often sadly challenged! Lol! Thanks for stopping by and encouraging me, my friend! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!


  2. Family dynamics are either a well-honed machine or the opposite. I have found that a hurdle to overcome is when a family member holds a grudge. This happened with my in laws.

    I am blessed to be learning what it looks like to speak with grace and truth. I love how you turned a comment about the tenderness of your turkey into a way to empower the person who made the comment. Thank you for walking us through the holidays. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.


    1. Oh yes, Mary! And it’s so crazy to think that we can fool everyone else with an “everything-is-just-fine-and-dandy” routine, when we’re seething underneath. I’m grateful that the only “turkeys” in my life don’t come to my Thanksgiving feasts. (Yes, I have a couple of “turkeys” in my life!) However, I would be wise to consider how my relatives feel about me! ha! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, my friend!


  3. You’ve convicted me that I need to work on my relationship with my mother-in-law. She’s been passive-aggressive our entire marriage (and it took my hubs years to figure this out). She’s not the kind of person who I would ever naturally make friends with, and I’ve let resentment build up for far to long. Thank you for the head-slap!


    1. Aww, I’m sorry to hear this, Anita. I know that it was very painful for my mom and it scared the heck out of me when I got married. I was skeptical that my MIL really liked me for at least a year or two because of it. And she’s been nothing but wonderful all throughout, might I add! I do hope you find ways to navigate this difficulty with God’s help. I have no doubt that you will, my friend!


  4. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Beth; you’ve brought hope nd a plan to many who face another “Not again!” holiday season.

    I learned early to hate family gatherings of any time; the ones in my childhood were dreadful filled with backbiting and hostility that completely subverted the spirit of the season.

    I thank God that those days are long past.


    1. Ha! Yes, that’s exactly how many feel … “Not again!” And I can only imagine how hard your holidays were in the abusive home you were raised in, Andrew. I’m just so glad you escaped that and have found healing for those wounds. And yes, I am glad they are behind you as well, my friend! Happy Thanksgiving to you and Barbara!


  5. I’m so grateful that I don’t really have any enemies at our Thanksgiving table, but we definitely have views that we VERY adamantly disagree on. It’s been a trying year. I’ve learned that I don’t have as much patience or compassion as I thought I did. ha. But it’s given me more opportunities to practice keeping my thoughts to myself. And to ask more questions; that’s been one strategy that has helped me. Thanks for sharing this, Beth. You pulled me in as soon as I read your title. 🙂 Have a blessed Thanksgiving!


    1. I’ll be praying for you and these tricky and trying Thanksgiving situations you find yourself in, Lisa. And it’s hard for me to think of you as not being compassionate. I think it’s a wonderful skill to be able to keep a hurt or disagreement to ourselves and at the same time be patient and loving. That’s an effort that still eludes me to some degree–especially with those I really care about and love. I also agree on the need to ask questions in these kinds of situations. They really can defuse anger and invite warmth and openness. Thanks for stopping by to encourage, my friend! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family as well!


  6. Wonderful thoughts here, Beth. This reminds me of the MIL on Everybody Loves Raymond. It’s easy to laugh at their ridiculousness, but much harder to put love into action. Thank you for this reminder to intentionally show Christ to those who need to see his love. Happy Thanksgiving to you, friend!


    1. How funny! I’ve never thought about my grandmother being like “Marie” on ELR. But I have thought about my own MIL being like her–only in a good way, that is. She loves her boy–my hubby–like nobody’s business! In fact, I have the ELR theme song as my ringtone for Gary! Funny how we marry into families with similar dynamics in them. But let me repeat … my MIL truly is sweet to me–to everyone, albeit a bit too doting on my hubby at times! Happy Thanksgiving to you too, Sarah! Thanks for coming by to encourage me!


  7. Yes, that’s true for me as well, Debbie. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful Thanksgiving, my friend!


  8. You tackled such a difficult subject with grace and insight Beth. The older I get, I realize there are no perfect families, and if there were, we would never be stretched to grow and show unconditional love and mercy. Praying you have a very peaceful and grace-filled Thanksgiving friend!


  9. Oh Beth. This post is spot.on. I have someone in my life who’s hurt me, and who I’ve probably hurt as well. It’s been years. One of the biggest keys God challenged me with last year was to forgive this person, really and truly, from my heart. I really had to pray and ask Him to change my heart. And you know what? When I was able to begin letting go of the hurt, God also released the bitterness that built up. This person can still be difficult, but I’m able to see them through God’s lens and not my own wounds.

    Your suggestions are perfect. Thank you so much for sharing them!

    I’m visiting from Jennifer Dukes Lee’s place today. 🙂 it’s so nice to “meet” you!


  10. I was just recalling a situation where I learned that when I’m quiet… the Holy Spirit often jumps in and directs the other person. i.e., God doesn’t need my help! Thanks for the reminder to love!


  11. Great insights.

    I had a similar dynamic with my mother-in-law that your mom did with hers and a few years ago, the Lord nudged me to do exactly the things you share here, and it worked! The change since then has been noticeable and I don’t “dread” visiting there like I used to in my younger days. It has actually been quite pleasant and there seems to be a mutual respect for each other now.

    Thanks for sharing.


  12. Bev @ Walking Well With God Avatar
    Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Love the title of your post….and don’t we all have at least two (or more) turkeys at our tables? Getting along with those with whom you have tussled in the past, does take eating a Huge piece of humble pie. Humbling one’s self is a hard discipline. I love the Forgiveness Prayer and template. Then what about those of us hosting a table in which we know there are strained relationships. I so desperately don’t want a fight to break out at the table so I find myself humbling myself in prayer for the other relationships over which I have no control. As usual, wise and sage advice my sweet friend! May you have a wonderful, one turkey only, Thanksgiving!
    Bev xx


  13. bluecottonmemory Avatar

    Straight to my heart! And my challenges. This last year, God has really planted a seed on this. I’ve learned that if I trust who I am to God – in that confidence I love better. BUT – I also learned to pray for those people who are mine who don’t value me as I’d like – not what I want in terms of results – but in praying for God’s plan for their lives, that God help them with their challenges in the daily. When I started doing that, so many things really changed – and I found peace and an even greater ability to love for fully! Wishing you Shalom in your Thanksgiving!


  14. I used to have enemies but I left that relationship. My daughter goes to my ex’s family and tweets about having a toxic holiday. I will share this with her. Blessings to you and I hope you are having a great Thanksgiving.


  15. At my bright holiday table,
    this man called me a fool,
    and as in some old fable
    I challenged him to duel
    with turkey legs as broadswords
    in medieval style,
    dinner rolls to be thrown towards
    the fiend as projectiles.
    A wide space in the living room
    was by spectators cleared,
    and yes, my friend, as you assume,
    the floor was lubed with beer,
    but before we found who won,
    somebody said, “The Bears are on!”


    1. This might be my favorite of your poems, Andrew! I’m going to read it at my Thanksgiving table this year, my friend! You are one hilarious dude!


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