Christmas time means family time. And family time can sometimes mean friction time. We come together with intentions of good will, but as soon as someone says something we disagree with, or does something that offends us, we can be quick to pull out our swords and spears.
The great prophet Isaiah speaks of people that “…will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” Not an easy thing to do when your mother-in-law is once again complaining how your kids don’t behave and is giving you tons of advice on how to raise them right, or Cousin Walter is pushing his “warped” philosophical ideas down your throat. But we are called to be the people who will hammer our swords into plowshares.
Here are some tips on how to turn that spear you want to throw into a peaceful pruning hook.
- BITE YOUR TONGUE
It is so tempting to get really ugly with your mother-in-law or tell Cousin Walter just how wrong you think his philosophical beliefs are. But literally sinking a tooth into your tongue-without drawing blood-can be a quick and easy way to keep yourself from reacting to the emotions bubbling inside you that will only add more friction to the family gathering. Adding a genuine smile while you bite your tongue is an added plus, but certainly not necessary. Sometimes just piecing those biter words you want to hurl from your mouth is challenging enough.
- SAY A PRAYER
This is definitely the most important of all the tips listed! While you feel that tooth cutting into your tongue, it is a great time to say a silent prayer. NOT a prayer like Lord, this family you put me in is driving me crazy…fix them! But something like God come to my assistance, Lord make haste to help me. Or… Jesus help me to love like you. Prayer is something you might need to return to several times through the family gathering. Don’t worry too much about what prayer you should say, just humbly turning to the Lord with a simple prayer-plea of one, single, word such as Help! will suffice.
- IN WITH THE POSITIVE, OUT WITH THE NEGATIVE
Now that you have bitten your tongue and said a prayer, it is much easier to do these final two tips. It’s time to focus on the positive, not the negative.
Your mother-in-law and Cousin Walter have some great qualities. Think of that awesome chocolate cake your mother-in-law always makes for your birthday or how she drops everything she’s doing to go pick up the kids from school when you’re running late at work. Recall the time Cousin Walter came and rescued you when your car battery was dead or how his impersonations make you laugh till you almost pee in your pants. When you think of all the positive things about your family members instead of the negative, it’s pretty hard to get upset with them.
- DO A KIND DEED
This is probably the hardest one. But remember you said that prayer, so all things are possible. If you repeat that Help! prayer he will give you ideas on good deeds to do.
You could put your arm around your mother in law and give her a compliment, like; “Your chocolate cake is always so moist and rich. I am sooo looking forward to enjoying a piece of it after our meal.” Or ask Cousin Walter if you can refill his eggnog glass while you are up. Doing something nice for someone who is getting on your nerves can sure deflate the tension in the room.
And amazingly, it hammers that sword…into a plowshare!