I am often struck by the imagery and themes of Christmas. Among them, rings peace and reconciliation.
According to the Biblical account of Christmas, the first announcement of the baby’s birth was made by angels to shepherds outside of Bethlehem. And it went like this…
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
The Christmas season is to be a celebration of peace, goodwill, and reconciliation. Yet, for many families, thoughts of peace rarely accompany the holiday season. Instead, the exact opposite is all too common. Years of bitterness, resentment, and depression have been piled on top of misconceptions, misunderstandings, and misbehavior.
Family peace was lost years ago—and is yet to be reclaimed.
Family relationships can cause conflict, turmoil, and stress at any time, but the tensions are often heightened during the holidays—that is what makes the Christmas season so difficult for many. Family misunderstandings and conflicts naturally intensify when you are thrown together for several days—or if you are separated because of them.
It is time to get over our differences. And instead, to offer goodwill and reclaim peace in our family relationships.
This Christmas, give the gift of overdue peace. (tweet that)
1. Determine to be responsible for your attitude, not other’s. True, you can’t control the attitude of others, but you are the only one responsible for yours. Take an active stand against the attitudes of bitterness and rejection in your family. Because if we know anything about resentment, we know that it will swallow everyone in its path until someone takes a stand against it.
2. Embrace humility. Long-running family strife is rarely caused by one individual. It may have started with an inappropriate word, misdeed, or misunderstanding, but its unresolution is the fault of many. Embrace humility and forgiveness even if you are not the author of the conflict. If you are harboring resentment towards another human being because of past hurts, choose to forgive and move on. The harm was their fault. But allowing it to weigh down your life today is yours.
3. Accept disagreement and put it behind you. It is foolish and prideful to assume that everyone is going to agree with you. Whether your family disagreements center on worldview, religion, parenting styles, or sports’ teams, your ability to love others despite them is central to interpersonal relationships. Healthy families don’t reject their members who think differently—they become stronger because of them. This Christmas, seek to listen and hear rather than judge and lecture.
4. Take the first step. Make the bold decision to be the first in your family to offer peace and reconciliation. This step is often as simple as a phone call. Try this for a lead-in, “Hey, I’m just calling to wish you a Merry Christmas. I know we’ve had disagreements in the past, but I just want you to know that I love you very much and I hope we can put them behind us…” And while one phone call may not heal years of deep personal pain and rejection, it is often the first step that never gets taken.
This post will be read nearly 20,000 times in these coming days leading up to Christmas. And while it’s unreasonable to assume that that many families will find peace because of it, it is reasonable to assume that maybe one family, somewhere, will be brought together and find peace again because of it—and that thought alone makes it worth it.
After all, maybe (just maybe), it will be your family. Or maybe even mine.
Kim Silva says
I always understood the role marketers had in creating the perceived need for things but I never thought about how they tied it into the idea of family. It makes sense as a marketing strategy though. Show your family how much you love them by buying them gifts. It’s sickening and sad.
This is a hard one the strife in my family relates to violence and abuse and I will never be the one to offer the olive branch especially when the perpetrator/s deem themselves innocent of crimes
The peace in my family comes from me keeping the distance and starting my family circle from me
We had a quiet uneventful Xmas this year with no distress and I received the best Xmas present
My daughter wrote me a beautiful letter telling me how much she loves me ❤️
You are not alone. It would be easily fixed if all family conflict was as simple as a difference in world views, religion, parenting styles or sports teams. Toxic, abusive and mentally ill family members make it impossible and it’s not always the best course of action to try to reconcile. Peace is sometimes just staying apart.
One BIG suggestion: If you are planning on going to others homes for holiday…OFFER to bring something toward meal. And don’t offer the day of celebration…the host already has menu planned by then…if you live a distance away atleast offer to bring some beverages, appetizers, or treats since you may be delayed or have to cancel due to weather. Then meal won’t be missing anything if you can’t make it, but you are still contributing if you do show.
I’m so over trying to be everything for everyone. Refused to be bamboozled into hosting every family holiday, did that for years. Why should I stress over having several meals, shopping, cleaning, cooking, and serving. People who have complaints are more than welcome to host next gathering. I am having one family holiday, calling it ThanXmas.
When asked what we were doing for Thanksgiving, I said not planning on doing one. Hmm people looked surprised, but there was no invite…if it doesn’t mean enough for others to host, then I no longer feel obligated to have it either.
Nothings worse than main course of resentment served with side dish of guilt.
“ThanXmas”! One has to say it aloud in order to catch the pronunciation, and it’s a great idea!
Thank you for your wise and wonderful words Joshua! I look forward to reading your posts and am yet to read one that doesn’t offer me something to ponder, something to cherish and/or something to share. Your writing is a gift – thank you!!
One problem with heightened consumerism this time of year is that it emphasizes all the things people lack. For those who are minimalism-minded, that’s not a problem. More insidious, however, is the season’s obssesive marketing messages about “family” and “being together is what it’s all about” and so on. There are so many gravely troubled families, children who are not cherished, families who are distant for legitimate, self-preserving reasons, or families who are nothing more than acquaintances. I think the notion of “family” this time of year can be almost fetishistic and somewhat shallow. It’s everywhere and unlike the feeling of lack caused by the frenzied marketing of consumer items to which we can simply say “no”, the feeling of lack created by the aggressive marketing of “family” is substantial, and profound.
Nailed it and Beautifully stated! Thank you for taking the time to put it so well :)
Just packed a huge Christmas parcel with books for everyone in the family. Need to make some space here, and have something to read for when I visit them :-D
Reece Precious says
Great post with potential long lasting consequences towards love, peace and reconciliation.
My father and I fell out over things he’d said to my sister and for two years I refused to talk to him and sent him a rather damning letter listing our conflicts over the years.
Our relationship had never been overly great so I thought I wouldn’t be losing out on anything.
One day out of the blue he rang me up and said he has cancer, can I forgive him and wipe the slate clean?
After pondering this and knowing my father, this must have taken a Herculean effort on his part to reach out this olive branch.
So I took it and although we are not in each others pockets, my life and very soul has been rewarded infinitely by this act of reconciliation.
I have my father back and my children have their grandfather.
My advice from this experience is to DO IT NOW before its too late! Procrastination,stubbornness and ultimately time robs so many people of yearned for reconciliations and all it takes is for someone to make the first move.
From a quote from Timber Hawkeye’s Buddhist Boot Camp,it says “Saying sorry doesn’t mean you’re wrong, it means you value your relationship more than your ego.”
Have a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!
(P.s. My dad battled through colon cancer but now has been all clear for 10 years!)
Know the feeling. My sister and her father fell out. They didn’t talk for years. I fought all the time to get them together again. Mostly for the kids to have grandparents. Two or three years my mom talked in secret to my sister. Now they talk again and visit each other and reign in sneering.
I am so happy.
They live in neighbouring villages. I’m at the other end of the world.
Tirzah Poarch says
Ah, beautifully written. These exact thoughts have been bouncing around in my head the last few weeks, thank you for sharing it with all of us. I loved your message. The Christmas season is indeed a time to find peace within ourselves and with those we love.
Nina Yau says
A humble and admirable approach to the cause of the human kind, Joshua. In reality, we all need more love and less hate, bouts of jealousy, angst and strife. We could all use this, love has no predetermined conditions one needs to have in order to receive love. Love has no barriers nor boundaries. Love just is.
Wishing you and yours a beautiful Christmas this year!
Thank you~ I shared this with my FB friends as well!
What a great reminder why we celebrate Christmas~
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
My 8 year old son who was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes told me that he really does not want anything for Christmas~ He has everything he needs! He just wants to be HEALTHY! Nothing like an 8 year old reminding us to SIMPLIFY and remember God first!
Thank you for sharing~
PEACE to you!
Nicki Savantes says
You might want to check out this documentary. Contrary to what doctors try to tell you, diabetes type 2 AND type 1 are reversible by switching to a raw diet. If you’re willing to make the switch, your son could have his Christmas wish fulfilled…
Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days
Wishing you all the best…
A Raw Food diet can control blood sugar but it can not CURE Type 1 diabetes.
We do eat many fresh vegetables and fruits and little meat but this will never repair a pancreas that does not work. I have researched the subject a lot and I think many people out there are not educated about the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. They are two completely different diseases,
I appreciate you help~ but not sure that a RAW diet will repair a pancreas. It can however cure or manage Type 2 diabetes which is not a auto immune disease.
Nicki Savantes says
At some level it doesn’t matter that they are two completely different diseases. A raw diet containing no animal protein and a small amount of fat (no more than 10% of caloric intake) prevents ALL socalled incurable civilisation diseases although they are very different in origin (cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes…). It cures them too, but body parts or organs that are gone or dead are of course difficult to replace…
The video offers pretty compelling evidence for diabetes, the book “The China study” offers scientific proof against dietary intake of animal fat, there’s numerous sources out there for people who really want a solution, but most people want to continue to believe what they believe and not budge. That’s ok by me. I’m not interested in anyone’s agreement or disagreement. I’m offering the information, afterwards folks do with it what they want…. All the best,
RE all of your last sentence:
“I’m not interested in anyone’s agreement or disagreement. I’m offering the information, afterwards folks do with it what they want…. All the best”
Exactly! The same reason I comment and/or post articles
I haven’t found anything on “the China study” and neither on raw and pancreas. For years I had problem with my kidneys. It is also due to diabetes. I was told by the nurses to cook and steam my veggies, this is better than raw to the digestion.
a'ishah hils says
i really enjoyed reading this post :)
something i’ve struggled with since the death of my parents is the choice of my family to estrange themselves from me. they don’t respond to phone calls or any forms of contact. it has hurt a lot but i want to keep reaching out because i want to be a part of their lives/have them be a part of mine. how do you cope with that? every time i reach out and say “hi, i know we’ve had disagreements in the past but i love you and want to wish you a happy (insert holiday here, this most recently happened at thanksgiving)” i either never hear anything back (which, you know, is alright – i will keep reaching out) or i get a violent sort of response accusing me of attempting to start drama or other nonsensical things that are hurtful and that i cannot understand.
would love anyone’s input/advice on this situation. lots of love to you all and hope you have a wonderful holiday.
a’ishah hils, I’m so sorry for your pain. How ironic that the people who are supposed to love us the most (our family) are the ones capable of inflicting the most pain. I maintain a relationship with my brother and my father, but I have 3 sisters that I have not spoken to in a few years. I had to step away and let go because they expect from me that which (apparently in their eyes) I am unable give. Funny thing is, the same is true in reverse. After our mother died, the family came together, albeit briefly, but then broke apart again. I had to decide whether I wanted to be happy without them in my life or be miserable with them in it. I chose the former, but when the day comes that my dad passes, we will be thrust into turmoil once again. I hope you find some peace within your own heart and give yourself the gift of happiness.
Wonderful post! And so, so true. It is great advice for the Christmas Season and all year long!
Ryan Nicodemus says
Great advice. Thank you for writing this.
Gip @ So Much More Life says
I’m glad to see so many beautiful posts coming out for Christmas.
Simplicity and peace go hand in hand, so this is a very appropriate post. If you’re going to simplify your life, you have to get rid of the emotional baggage and nonsense that weighs you down spiritually.
In other words, you must find — and model — peace.
Nice work…just shared on Facebook…
Thank you so much for such a sane and lovely and appropriate post. It is wonderful to focus on the important things at this Christmas time – and to take responsibility for our own behaviour too. Thank you – and a very happy Christmas to you and your family from snowy Ulster!
Awesome post! Frohe Weihnachten! ‘Be the first’, those are amazing words/actions!
Point 1 is the key one for me. This approach to life can revolutionise all relationships. Christmas is built up to be so perfect, that for many the expectation and reality do not match – it’s a disappointment for some, and they show it through their actions and attitude. By simplifying the whole holiday and releasing the pressure it can help. Take some time to appreciate that for some it is difficult time, for whatever reason, and that you need to leave them to deal with it in their own way (compassionately) rather than try and resolve it for them. For those who are just outright awkward around the holiday period pay no heed, it can only affect you and yours if you allow it to.
Rich McCarthy says
All i can say is… Great Post. So many families need to hear and take to heart this message.
Marilyn Nimmo says
Thank you. I have never understood how family rifts start and people can stay so bitter. Thankfully, I have not been touched by this, but I have witnessed it. It is so sad. I hope that at least one family – an d hopefully many families – will find peace by reading this.
Thanks you. I have 2 bio kids and 5 adult stepkids not to mention grandkids and dogs, who are coming and staying from Thursday through Sunday. My husband isn’t willing to go gift free yet and I have been feeling frustrated and resenting the ongoing friction that happens. I needed somebody to remind me that I can only be in charge of myself, my attitudes and actions. I am going to log off now and sit in a quiet room with a cup of tea and recenter now.
Very well said Joshua. We should all head the words of peace and reconciliation this time of year and throughout 2011. It starts with humility as you said then leave the baggage at the door.
just wanted to say fantastic post, well said :)
Great post. This is perfect timing. I’m leaving tonite for 5 days with my family and am already anxious. I’m dreading the underlying tension and vaguely masked fights.
I brought my journal along, because I never need it more than times like these, and am going to write this at the top of each page:
Determine to be responsible for your attitude, not other’s.
I’m going to have a peaceful, merry Christmas!
Living the Balanced Life says
Ahh, great words Joshua! Many do need to read this message. For me, the peace I am seeking is internal. I know where this peace needs to come from, but for some reason seems elusive to me at this time. A period of growth for me.
Hope you and yours have a very merry Christmas!
Great post! This needed to be said :)
Christmas isn’t about the best food, the most decorations and the largest tree… like many other things, it should only be about love!
Merry christmas from the netherlands!
joshua becker says
And Merry Christmas to you as well.