The holidays are a glorious time when we get together with family and friends. However, the joy can also be accompanied by angst knowing you will be spending time—perhaps extended time—with the very person or people who most easily can ‘get under your skin’. Author Joyce Landorf calls them ‘irregular people”; often related to us, they are the people who tend to say or do the very opposite of what we would prefer to hear or to have happen. For instance, we seek to hear a word of love and encouragement and instead we hear a word that leads us to feel criticized, unappreciated, and even worthless. In their presence we can easily be offended, and if we are not mindful, we can easily offend them.
It is when we are with those with whom we have a history of disappointment and pain that our ‘flesh’ can easily rise up and show its ugly head. If we are not careful, rather than seeking God’s will, His righteousness and His ways, our focus will be on our will, our ‘rights’, and doing things our way. We must be intentional about having God’s perspective or we will easily sin against the other person in thought or deed, and our sin against others is ultimately always a sin against God, our– and their– Creator.
Here are some tips for how you can have an ‘unoffendable’ holiday:
- Above all else, be prepared with prayer! Ask God to give you His heart of love for all the people with whom you’ll interact, and especially for the person who tends to hurt or aggravate you most. Ask Him to enable you to see the person as He sees them. Ask Jesus to purify your heart so you can be what He has called and created you to be—a vessel through which His unconditional love flows from Him, through you, and to others. Ask Him to give you His grace to obey John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
- Ask God to give you His eyes to see yourself: you are His Beloved child: the daughter of the ‘King of Kings’ and ‘Lord of Lords’! Keep in mind that you are living to please an Audience of One, and His name is Jesus. It is between that other person and God how he/she treats you; it is between you and God how you treat that person. Seek to please God and to hear His voice above the voice of all others. It is only His view of you that truly matters.
- Go with realistic expectations. Don’t rehearse past hurts but also don’t expect the person to be someone they are not. Remember, sinners are going to do what sinners do—which is sin.
- Choose not to be easily offended. Ask God to give you an ‘unoffendable heart’. If the person says something to stir you up, immediately ask God to put a seal over your mouth so you don’t say anything that will ‘fuel the flames’ and hurt them and grieve God. Remain silent until you can respond out of God’s heart of love.
- Humble yourself and quickly apologize if you do offend.
- Forgive freely as you have been freely forgiven.
- Look to give love, not to get it. Put the other person’s interests above your own. For example, initiate conversation about their interests. For example, if that person is a football fanatic, even if you aren’t, ask him about his favorite team and make sure to engage with your eyes, ears, and mind as he responds. And don’t be thinking, “So when are they going to ask me about my interests?” or “I’ll show an interest in them after they’ve shown an interest in me.”
- Listen! With your heart, not just your ears! Many times, especially with people with whom we’ve had past conflicts, we tend to focus our thoughts more on what our response will be rather than truly listening to what they’re saying with the intent of understanding them. Determine to seek to understand the other person, not focus on being understood.
- Be willing to die to your ‘right to be right’ in order to be in right relationship with the other person, and more importantly, blameless before God.
- Remind yourself that you are a sinner in need of the grace and mercy of God…just like the other person who has offended you in the past, and extend to him or her the love that God has so graciously extended to you.
In other words…put into practice God’s love:
“Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. “1st Corinthians 13:4-7 Amplified