Dear Lucy: Christmas may be the time of joy, but it is also the time when family dinners and drama happen. Even though I want to be forgiving and friendly with certain family members, I just can't see myself being around them pretending. But my mother would be hurt if I don't show up with my family. What can I do?
Dear LT: You didn't give me a lot of details and, yes, holidays bring out the best and worst in families. It's the time when we decide to behave differently, to re-think our grudges, or to be kinder if only for one day. We suddenly grow a conscience and a little guilt also. So, rather than speak on the reason for the season or all of the other things that most of us already know, consider this...
If you really want to be forgiving then be forgiving. It's just a decision and it's yours to make. What is the down side to forgiving? That's a serious question. What do you have to give up when you choose to forgive? Are you willing to let it go?
How hard is it to be friendly? We are often kinder to strangers than we are to the ones we say we love or call "family." What does being friendly mean? We speak kindly, we pay attention to people, we respect their right to be on the planet doing the best they can. We offer respect and expect it in return. If it is not returned, we know where the boundary is and remain respectful without letting others cross the line.
Perhaps your mother would be more hurt if you showed up and showed out. Imagine how nervous she is in anticipation of the holiday drama. Have a frank conversation with your mother. Tell her that you are concerned but that you will do your very best to remain respectful of yourself, her and your other family members. Tell her that if things start to go wrong you have an exit plan and that if you leave, it will be for the sake of peace and not to hurt her.
Pretending to be or to feel something untrue makes you feel like a fake and dishonest. So who is the real you? Is the real you an unforgiving, selfish person who cannot behave nicely for just one day? Is the real you someone who cannot accept others just the way they are without judgment for a few hours once a year?
Just as we don't like everyone, there are people who don't like us. Sometimes these are our relatives! Being kinfolk doesn't really change much...we just think we should be different towards them.
The fact is that we are asked to "do unto others as we would have them do unto us." That means everybody. And if you try to be nice and it is not accepted, then go be nice to somebody else with no strings attached. People don't have to be nice back. But we are each responsible for our own behavior.
So, don't go and be nice just for your mother. Make a decision to be your real self, whatever that is. Can you live with the consequences of being who you really are. If you spend your time pretending to be someone else, the person that they like won't be you anyway.
When all else fails, you could also decide to not pretend that you want to be there and just don't go. Now if you do that, you will probably spend the rest of next year justifying your behavior to yourself and anyone else who will listen...Just saying.
Make a decision for the best person inside of you...the one you like.
(For help with the feelings that get in the way of prayer and peace of mind, get Lucy's new book, "BE NOT ANXIOUS." Order it directly from her at 901-907-0260 or from her website.)