Thanksgiving will be upon us soon. For some of us that means happy family get togethers. For some of us that means crazy relatives. Before you swear off family dinners because you have to spend the entire time with your hands clapped over your little one’s ears and eyes, here’s a little advice…from someone who has her own fair share of difficult family members.
Every family has one…or two…or a whole bunch. Get over it.
I don’t want to sound harsh, but quit complaining. Every single family on the face of this planet has a few nuts in the family tree. You are not alone, and you are not cursed. In fact, to others in your family YOU might be the difficult family member! *gasp* Yes, I know Uncle Ed’s drinking is out of hand. Yes, I know Cousin Susie dresses immodestly. Yes, I know Grandma Irene is crazy. It just is what it is. Your complaining isn’t going to change them.
This is your mission field.
How many times do we wish we could reach the world for Christ, make an impact on unreached people groups, share the Gospel with others in a tangible way? Here’s your chance! And let’s face it, sharing Christ with others is messy because people are messy. The really neat thing is you don’t even have to thump your Bible to get your family’s attention! Just the fact that you live a different life and still love them (yes, love them) is going to blow them away.
Remember, the external reflects the internal.
99% of the time difficult people are hurting people. What you see and hear is simply the overflow of their hearts. It’s not you – it’s them.
Be honest, but don’t overshare.
It is ok to be open with your children about family members who are difficult to be around; however, don’t offer more information than they need to hear or are old enough to process. And don’t turn this into a gossip session! Your younger children don’t need that added burden, and your older children can already pick out the strange ones. You can be open with your children about the things they see and hear at family gatherings without fear they will become like those people because your children don’t live that life on a daily basis. They know it is out of the ordinary, and if you explain it to them in terms of a life lived for Christ and a life lived without Christ, they will understand. There should be more compassion than condemnation in your words, and more mercy than malice in your actions.
A lot of what irks you goes unnoticed by your children.
Grandpa Grover’s foul language and dirty jokes aren’t exactly on the list of things you want your children to remember about Thanksgiving dinner, but frankly, they probably won’t remember. Children are like that. At least until a certain age, and hopefully by then, you have established right from wrong and your kids are quick to note how very wrong that sort of thing is.
There is something to be learned from even the foulest of family members.
I know this is difficult to see, but it is true…a broken clock is right twice a day, and you have family members, who despite their rather obvious shortcomings, still have qualities that can be commended. Honor what is commendable, shield what is not.
A note about “dangerous” family members:
Unfortunately, there are sometimes family members whose vices pose a very real threat to your children. In this case, you have a couple of options –
- Avoid family gatherings where those family members might be present.
- Go to the family gatherings, but never, and I mean never, let your children out of your sight.
Loving our difficult family members DOES NOT mean we ignore their vices or pretend their actions do not affect others. We must be vigilant parents – radars on, guards up.