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.
[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 time—much 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 Monday, Moments of Hope, Literary Musing Mondays, Jennifer Dukes Lee, Break Through Homeschooling Linkup, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, Faith and Friends, Fresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday