Being Thankful...When You Don't Feel So Thankful
This is the time of year that should be full of excitement and celebration. Sadly, for many of us the dread of spending extended time with family has already begun to settle into our bones. With the crushing weight of stress that many of us shoulder daily, the added strain of navigating family dynamics can be a tipping point, with a result that is never pretty.
Given our own fallenness and the dysfunctional environments we find ourselves in, it may be wise to think through a plan that is designed to minimize stress, as well as maintain, or perhaps even grow our relationships. Even more importantly, a plan can help us pursue virtue in the midst of difficulty, instead of giving into our own frustrations and sin.
Carrie Grosvenor, Managing Editor of Lovetoknow, in her article 10 Survival Tips for Thanksgiving Family Gatherings provides some helpful ideas that could be incorporated into your plan. You can read her full article via the link, but here are her 10 survival tips:
1. Take a Pass on Cocktails—there is a huge advantage to a clear head
2. Prepare to Deflect—consider how to shift away from unwanted discussions
3. Take a Few Shots—become the holiday photographer (candids and posed)
4. Put the Game On—yes, football can be your friend; great group activity
5. Spend Quality Time With the Kids—take a break from adults
6. Make Yourself Useful—helping is good for your soul as well as your host
7. Give Them Something to Talk About—ask a question that will elicit a story
8. Dress for Success—comfortable, not black, and gives confidence
9. Share the Joy—bring a friend (important if you are single)
10. Have an Exit Strategy—plan ahead how you are going to graciously leave
Remember as Lori Soard in her article on Thanksgiving survival says,
Even if your family drives you crazy, they are still your family. Take the time to make happy memories and do your best to deal with the stresses that come with the holidays and large gatherings and enjoy those special moments with those who are still here to celebrate with you. When you look back, those difficult moments will not be what you recall or cherish!
Another voice of encouragement to add to this discussion is Ken Sande, Founder and formerly of Peacemaker Ministries and now Founder of Relational Wisdom 360. While this excerpt from his recent blog post, is not specifically related to holiday survival it is applicable. The habits he lists should be ones we cultivate in our own lives regardless of what month it is.
Today is the day to begin building gracious attitudes and behaviors into your life so that when the veneer of “company manners” is worn away, what shines through is pure gold. Here are a few simple habits taught in Scripture that will make you easier to live with … both today and down the road.
Eliminate grumbling, whining, and complaining from your life, as well as the sighing and moaning that seems to say, “Feel sorry for me” (Phil. 2:14). If you’re hurting and need help, prayer, or encouragement, say so directly and graciously. But don’t unload your problems aimlessly and hopelessly on those around you (2 Cor. 1:3-7).
See and celebrate God’s many goodnesses to you. Develop a keen eye for all the mercies and kindnesses God pours into your life, and never miss an opportunity to say “thank you” to him and to the people through whom he blesses you (Ps. 16:5-11; 1 Thess. 5:16-18).
Look for the best in every person and situation. If you look for the good in others, you will usually find it. If you are watching for the bad, you’ll usually experience that instead (Prov. 11:27). Be so affirming of others that they simply love being around you; they will if you always make them feel good about what God is doing through them (Phil. 4:8-9; 1 Corinthians 1:4-9).
Smile. Don’t waste the only face you’ve got on blank or somber expressions. Develop the habit of smiling as you walk into the kitchen in the morning, as you greet co-workers throughout the day, as you walk past others in the grocery store in the afternoon. A simple smile and friendly greeting from you can dramatically change another person’s day (Prov. 12:25; Prov. 15:13; see the Seven Benefits of a Smile).
For some of you, this article might induce negative thoughts as you ponder how to survive the holidays. This blog post is not intended to be pessimistic, rather it is facing head on the realities that many of us encounter this time of year. Having said that, we should not lose sight of the long-term overall goal, which is to improve our relationships with friends and family and in doing so we are promoting peace, pursuing the high road (aka virtue), and positioning ourselves to realize that we need to grow in our own spiritual maturity. The hope is that your holidays will be more memorable, and for all the right reasons!
It is my hope that you will be blessed with wonderful moments, good food, and may you never forget being thankful isn’t just for Thanksgiving Day!
WHAT WE ARE THINKING ABOUT
Prayer: For all the first responders fighting the California fires and the victims
Gratitude: For all of your encouragement in the work of The Collaborative