The holidays can be a real contrast. Time off from work, yet a lot more work to prepare for celebrations. Times surrounded by people, but for many it is a time of sadness and loneliness even in the crowd. Joyous celebrations, but also times where our frustrations with family or close friends can rise to the surface. This last one seems to be a big one for many. Yesterday I was listening to a little talk radio and the radio host was complaining about what it meant for him to be with his family. I sincerely hope they weren’t listening. But people were laughing and were engaged in the conversation and that reminded me that family frustrations might be more prevalent than we would like.

So, how do we handle it when we are surrounded by family members who can hurt, sadden and frustrate us during this happy time of year?

1. First, remember to limit your expectations of your family members. Guess what… they are people! And people come with stuff. Even when we grow up with people, we still don’t realize all the stuff they carry. When Jesus saw people in need he had compassion on them. Somehow we think family should be different from the rest of the world. They’re not. They try and fail. And sometimes they get tired of trying. If they’ve disappointed you in days past, what surprised you about that? Doesn’t everyone disappoint people on a pretty regular basis?

2. Second, serve instead of wanting to be served by them. For some reason, we think family is here to meet our needs. Au contraire! We seem to think they should be our best friends, or the most understanding and compassionate people around – – they may be at times. But they don’t exist to make your holidays better. They exist to give you someone to serve. So, when they arrive, ask yourself the question, “what can I do to make their day better?” “How can I create an atmosphere where they know they are loved and accepted for who they are?”

3. Third, honor them. As I said earlier, we joke about our families and in sarcastic ways put them down. Really, if we’re going to show love to them, we have to honor them. Treat them like guests, even if you’re at their home. And never share their warts and foibles with others. It is important to protect the honor of our kids who make mistakes, our spouses who fall flat on promises or our relatives who make life difficult. If you have to work on your relationship or on someone’s destructive behavior, do it within the boundaries of the family and those who can really help. In other words, no facebooking about how odd, or weird, or dysfunctional our families are! We all have them, we all know!

4. Fourth, love them. These are the people God has given you to love. I once heard someone use this progression. Can you love your spouse like the covenant partner that she is? No? Well then, can you love her like the neighbor that God commands us to love? No? Then love her like the enemy that Christ commanded us to love! No matter what they do, or have done, love them. It’s as simple as that.

5. Fifth, get a clear picture of yourself. Sometimes we’re a little tough on our family members because we’re a little too high on ourselves. The truth is, I’ve disappointed my family as much as any of them have disappointed me. And so have you!

Now, get out there and celebrate with these people who are so crucial to your life. After all, they are the ones God used to make you who you are (like it or not). 🙂 If you find a little joy in them this year, put that on FACEBOOK!