By Rhonda Stoppe, Crosswalk.com
When you think about family gatherings do you grow anxious over the drama that might ensue? Do the holidays trigger unpleasant family dynamics? While you can’t do much about others actions, you can evaluate how you interact with your family.
In my book, Moms Raising Sons to Be Men is the quote: “An unexamined life is a wasted life.”
As a good coach has his players watch game videos to learn from their mistakes and successes, so we benefit when we take time to prayerfully consider our own lives. That being said, let’s take a look at 9 questions to help you not contribute to the family drama––and what you can do to change.
1. Is someone always on your “naughty list”?
Evaluate your relationships with the people in your life. Over the years has it become a habit for you to always have at least one person on your naughty list? Maybe it’s your daughter-in-law who doesn’t respect your son like you think she should, or your negative sibling.
Whatever the reason, if you were raised in a home where it was “normal” to keep lists of people who’ve let you down, you may not even realize what a destructive pattern you've developed.
If you’ve ever been on someone’s naughty list you know the feelings of insecurity and rejection it can bring. When you regularly express your displeasure about someone on your list, you’ll lose the trust of your family members because they’ll wonder, When is it my turn to be on their list?
In my own experience, this fear caused me to become a people pleaser. Before family gatherings I’d rack my brain to consider anything I might have done––or not done, that would put me on someone’s bad list. First Corinthians 13 teaches that love believes the best about others. Become a person who chooses to think well of people and break tear up that naughty list.
2. Do you keep a record of wrongs?
When holidays bring families together it can trigger memories of past hurts. If you had a controlling mother, absentee father, or conflicts with siblings, it’s common for those memories to come back once the family gathers.
I am a middle child who wanted my siblings to get along. Whenever there was fighting I’d climb on the couch, plug my ears and close my eyes. I never wanted to get pulled into the fray, so attempting to be unseen was reaction. However, while choosing to be invisible amidst conflict my mind kept accounts of the hurtful words and discord.
First Corinthians 13:7 says that love does not keep a record of wrongs. For many years I justified my “record keeping��� as setting up boundaries. But, this response inadvertently caused me to become self-righteous in the way I interacted with difficult family members.
One day, after a painful interaction, I remember thinking, I’d never act in such a manner. Instantly I was convicted of my self-righteousness as I realized I wouldn’t be any different if not for Christ’s transforming work in my life. Immediately my tears started to fall as the Spirit gave me a broken and a contrite heart, which led to my repentance.
God humbled and transformed me when I recognized my own sin and asked His forgiveness and help to change. And He can do the same for you if you ask Him for help.
3. Do you get offended easily?
Are you easily offended? When you’re with your family do you get hurt when you don’t feel heard or understood? If family members are talking about some event they attended together, do you feel wounded that you weren’t invited?
While it’s painful to be excluded, picking up an offense can sure steal your joy, and put a damper on the family gathering. If you’re a person who’s easily offended consider how exhausting it might be for family members to feel like they must tread lightly so as not to offend you. Consider this insight from Psalm 119:165, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (KJV).
The day I first read Psalm 119:165 was life-changing because this verse spoke to the reason I would become offended. Basically, if you’re one whose habitually offended you can know that you’re not loving God’s Law properly. In my own experience, as I committed myself to the study, memorization and meditation of Scripture, God drove away my propensity to pick up offense.
It doesn’t mean that people won’t do things that hurt or offend you. But you will have learned the how not to becoming consumed by the offense. You’ll have discovered the secret to living controlled by the Spirit, rather than controlled by how others treat––or mistreat, you.
4. Are you jealous or covetous?
If you’re in the habit of comparing yourself with others the practice may be heightened when you come together with family. Especially if, in an attempt to “help you do better,” your parents contribute to your insecurity by pointing out the accomplishments of others.
Gift-giving can accentuate the financial discrepancies between you and your family members. If you’re on a tight budget gift exchanges may put a heavy burden on your family and marriage relationship. Especially if you’re tempted to over extend yourself in order to keep up with the type of gifts you think would measure up to those with a healthier income.
Or maybe you’re not jealous of your extended family’s net worth, but perhaps it’s their happy life that you long for. Obsessing over what you don’t have will make you miserable, and resentful toward those who have what you want.
When you’re tempted to covetousness, reprioritize your thinking by counting your blessings and asking God to help you be content, because “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1Timothy 6:6).
5. Are you kind?
Evaluate where you are on the kindness scale. If kindness is not your first response it’s likely that you’ve not developed a kind heart. The truth is, none of us are capable of true kindness without the heart change that comes with a relationship to Christ.
One fruit of the Spirit is kindness. So, if you’re having trouble being kind it may be time to mature in your faith so the good fruit of kindness will be reflected in your character.
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind one to another…” This type of kindness isn’t something you can produce on your own. True kindness comes from a deep love for others that comes when you love God with all of your heart. When loving God becomes your priority, His love and kindness will spill over onto those around you––even to those difficult people God has allowed in your life.
And that type of kindness reflects Christ and draws others to want to know Him.
6. Are you too helpful?
Too helpful? My hand is up here. I’m the mother of four married children––with 11 grandchildren! Several years back my kids did a personality test on me. But my daughter said, “Mom, you’re a yellow. My childhood makes so much sense to me now!” I asked, “What’s a yellow?” They explained “a yellow” is basically a person who wants everything to be fun. Yep. That’s me alright.
My son-in-law often jests, “If it ain’t fun Nana ain’t doin’ it.” Which... is kinda-sorta-true.
But in my zeal to be sure everyone’s having a good time, I can overstep with my adult children. I’m blessed to have a family who covers with grace when I get in the mix to work out the details so every grandkid has a good time. But I really don’t want to overstep, so I’ve invited my adult kids and their spouses to please tell me when I’m out of line. I’m sure there are times they bite their tongues, but I can usually pick up on when I’m being “too helpful”.
For some, “helpful” means to offer unwelcome words of advice or correction. While teachable moments do arise, your “helpful” advice might come across as condescending, judgmental or even hurtful. Consider how telling your daughter-in-law she needs to better discipline her children may feel like disapproval.
Coming together for the holidays isn’t the time to talk about how your older son should study more in school, or how your single adult daughter should try harder to find a husband.
Ask God to show you any areas your helpfulness might cause drama or a strain on your family this holiday season. And be willing to change. Yep, change. I know it’s hard––I’m a yellow remember? But pushing through with a “this is just how I am” attitude may in the long run cost you the very fellowship with your family that you crave.
7. Are you the family gossip?
God abhors it when a person sows seeds of discord (see Proverbs 6:14). Gossip is divisive and causes dissension. If you're the family gossip, others won’t trust you because they know a time will come when you’ll talk about them too. Or, maybe your family doesn’t talk about each other––but enjoys gossip sessions about everyone else.
This practice is still destructive, prideful and sinful.
Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). When you gossip you’re not glorifying God. Rather you’re destroying your testimony. And your sinful habit renders you useless for Kingdom purposes. Learning to refrain from gossip isn’t easy but it’s possible with the Spirit’s help.
Ask God to forgive you and help you learn to refrain from speaking evil against others, and you just might find your family trusting you to guard their reputations.
8. Do you blame others?
Do you make it a habit of blaming others for your misery? Happiness is fleeting when you base it upon how others treat you. Real happiness is found when you rest in God’s sovereignty over the circumstances of your life. Remember Joseph in the Bible? He did not blame his brothers for selling him into slavery.
Rather Joseph said, “You meant for evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Refusing to blame others for your troubles and trusting God to work all things together for good will set you free from the blame game.
9. Do you fellowship with God’s family?
Jesus is the only One who will never let you down. We spend our lives looking to our families, significant other, kids or careers to make us feel valued, loved and happy. But those relationships will never fulfill the longing of your soul. God created you to find your worth in His love for you. He sent His only Son to be born of a virgin to show you His love and to make a way for you to be adopted into His family.
Whether your family is a refuge or a battleground, remember that you have a place in the family of God. When you delight yourself in the Lord, and attend a healthy bible teaching church you’ll find encouragement, joy and a place to belong. First Peter 2:10 says, you “once were not a people, but now are the people of God.”
Greater is He who is in you, who can help you become in your family the catalyst of peace, rather than discord, this holiday season and the whole year through.
With over 30 years experience of helping women build a life with no regrets as a pastor’s wife, mentor, speaker, author, mom & grandmother. Rhonda helps women to:
- Break free from regrets that hold them back
- Grow in wholehearted devotion to Christ
- Find victory over people-pleasing
- Have the marriage others only dream about
- Build a godly legacy to become more influential than they ever dreamed possible
Rhonda is an evangelist and teaches women to build their lives upon the sound doctrine of scripture. Rhonda's messages are biblically engaging, real and captivating.
The Stoppe's have been married 38 years, and are still crazy about teach other. They help others find the secret to a marriage without regrets. Steve & Rhonda are obsessed with their 11 grandchildren. For more about Rhonda visit: NoRegretsWoman.com
Related: Listen to our Faith Over Fear podcast, Breaking Free from Generational Dysfunction:
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/AntonioGuillem
Rhonda Stoppe is the NO REGRETS WOMAN. With more than 30 years experience of helping women build no-regrets lives. I could have listened to Rhonda talk all night, is what women say about Rhonda’s enthusiastic, humorous, transparent teaching and zeal as an evangelist. She’s committed to fulfilling the Titus 2:4 commission by mentoring, teaching, and writing books that are inspiring, grounded in Scripture, and easy to read––like you're visiting with a friend over coffee.
Rhonda is the author of 6 books and appears on numerous radio programs, including Focus on the Family, Family Life Today and Dr. James Dobson’s FamilyTalk, & hosts The No Regrets Hour. Her new podcast, Old Ladies Know Stuff, just launched. She’s an evangelist and speaker at women’s events, College Women’s Chapel, Pastor’s Wives Conferences, MOPs and Homeschool Conventions. Sharing the gospel at her NoRegretsWoman Conference is her sweet spot. Rhonda is a regular contributor for Crosswalk and many other magazines. Rhonda ministers alongside her husband Steve, who for 20 years has pastored First Baptist Church of Patterson, California. They live out their own Real Life Romance writing books and speaking at their No Regrets Marriage Conferences, but their favorite ministry is their family. They have four grown children and ten grandchildren. To learn more about Rhonda’s speaking topics, watch her teaching, and book Rhonda for your next event, visit: NoRegretsWoman.com.