Handling the Not-so-Happy Holidays
The holiday season is upon us. For many, if not most of us, the holiday season means happiness and extended time spent with family. Family time is good; except when it isn’t. And, the holidays are happy; except when they aren’t. The truth of the matter is that spending time with family over the holidays is a challenge for some people. It is a serious misconception to think that everyone enjoys and looks forward to this time of the year, for a good number of people don’t enjoy it at all; and for good reason. Consider just two such reasons.
For one thing, holiday family gatherings are an intense reminder of those whom we love that are no longer with us. Try as we may not to, we can’t help but miss those people who were so instrumental to making the holidays happy. It can take months and even years for a family to develop and grow into its “new normal” after someone passes; and the holidays are just another level of added pressure for a family to find its new identity. Moreover, if the grief and pain of missing a family member is not properly dealt with, through counseling, support groups or simply healthy expression; moving forward will be that much more difficult.
Another reason why the holidays are not happy for some is because of their financial situation. As much as we like to say that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” the truth is that materialism and the insatiable desire to consume is piqued during the holiday season more than any other time of the year. During the holidays, we are so inundated with sales, advertisements, and new products that even the most deliberate shoppers and budget conscious among us find it hard not to get caught up in the frenzy. Add to that, the attitude that we are required to buy and exchange gifts, perpetuated in some families; and the outcome can be flat out exasperation and even despair.
So what are we to do if we or someone we know gets struck with a case of the holiday-time blues? Here are a few ways to handle the not-so-happy-holidays:
- Be honest about how you feel. Proverbs 4:23 says “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” (HCSB) Dishonesty from without or from within is a severe blow to the heart. We must work hard to find safe places to share our feelings and issues, because simply holding them in or wishing them away is not a viable option. Grief, change, low cash flow and the like can make it difficult to “get up” for holiday gatherings and increased family time. It’s okay to give yourself time to adjust – but it’s not okay to expect others to know what’s going on with you, if you never share it. And, it’s not okay to do nothing to improve your predicament. Let’s just be honest; for healthy honesty precipitates growth.
- Be the change you want to see. Hebrews 10:24-25(a) gives this admonishment: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do….” (NLT) While the context of this statement is about corporate worship, it also applies to our family gatherings. We cannot perpetually neglect getting together just because it’s hard or because we don’t like the focus of the time being spent. Find a way to be a catalyst for the change you want to see. Chances are you’re not the only one who thinks your family gathering needs a change for the better. You may be just the one to start a new family tradition. We need one another. Our families can be the toughest people to love and to get along with sometimes; nevertheless, it is also true that few others love us, understand us or appreciate us like our family. Don’t stay away; be present and be the change.
- Be sensitive to others’ feelings and willingness to grow. Sometimes we make family gatherings extra hard because we are insensitive instead of kind and loving. As mentioned earlier, there are very good reasons why people don’t want to come around during the holidays. We must be more sensitive to the real challenges that people are having in life and not just dismiss them as being anti-social. Now, some people are anti-social, and we must love them from a distance. But others, would come around, if they felt welcomed, not just invited. Or, if they knew that they would be accepted and appreciated for who they are now; and not asked to revert back to the person they were twenty years ago for the sake of someone’s inappropriate jokes and harsh comments. Whoever said “there’s a thin line between love and hate” wasn’t exaggerating. Let’s be willing to grow and allow others to do the same. No one likes to be reminded of their past failures and shortcomings all the time; balance is a beautiful thing. Proverbs 4:7 says “Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.” (NLT) Truer words were never spoken.
We are praying for you and your family during this holiday season. So remember, if you find yourself a little down during this time of the year; it’s okay. We’ve got to learn to push through the tough times with the same faith and determination with which we embrace the good times. But, don’t go at it alone. We are relational beings. And believe it or not, not only do we need our families in order to be our best selves, but also they need us! No matter how our families may change, there is one constant; and that’s the love we share. The ever sufficient source of that love is God; who is always the same. John Legend was right,
Times is hard
And things are a changin’
I pray to God
That we can remain the same
All I’m trying to say is our love don’t have to change
No it don’t have to change
Amen, to that.