Friday, December 24, 2010

Peace On Earth And Goodwill Toward Knuckleheads

Just today, I read an interesting and well-meaning article titled, "5 Ways to Keep Peace During Family Gatherings." It's well-meaning because it comes at a time when families are gathering for the Christmas holidays.  It's interesing because it actually contains some helpful information.  Few of us realize the stress of family gatherings during holidays.  The shopping, cleaning house, preparing for company, cooking, decorating, and everything else that goes into the lead up to Christmas can wear on a person.  A lot of people fret terribly over whether they bought the right present, have the house in order, where everybody is going to sleep, and. . . oh, yes, what are we going to do with the inevitable knucklehead that spoils the peace and joy of it all?

I'll list the author's five points so you will know how she provides help, but I would encourage you to read it for yourself.  Here we go:
  • Check the emotional baggage
  • Find a neutral zone
  • Set boundaries, but stay flexible
  • Fun is the ultimate buffer
  • Recognize the family culture and build on it
In article, author Sandra Rodriguez Barron observes, "In truth, tensions among family members are often exacerbated by ongoing disputes, rivalry, conflicting expectations for the holiday, disputes over lifestyle, new marriages, divorce or just plain bad manners."  She's on target.  These stressor, and more, can turn a joyous family gathering into a war zone.

As much as I think the article is helpful, I'm going to offer you a "one step" solution.  It's not as visually appealing as Barron's list of five.  It's hard to make bullet points out of a single suggestion.  But here goes:  Don't cause trouble.  That's it.  I know, not so very astounding is it?  I would suggest, though, that it's amazingly effective.

Here's the Bible verse on which I'm basing my one step peace insurance policy: Romans 12:18 (NAS) — If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

The Apostle Paul doesn't always give us leaway as he seems to do here.  This statement begins, "If possible."  Perhaps he's just being kind.  Of course it's possible!  Otherwise, why even say it.  The problem is that we often think it's not possible because all the turmoil is created by others.  Maybe so.  I've certainly known people, even some family members, who seemed to delight in twisting knots in everyone else's tail.  I think Paul was not giving us an out, he was hoping we'd at least think about what he said.
What did he actually say?  ". . . as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men."  Thus my, "Don't cause trouble."  My suggestion is merely the negative of Paul's more positive statement.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if every family gathering this Christmas was attended by people who were all, to a person, determined not to cause trouble for anybody?"  That elusive peace and joy finally might settle on families whose holiday season often turns sour and hostile.

So, there you are.  As you head off to Grandma's, or going to see the spouse's kin, or experiencing one of those multi-blended gatherings that is hard to define, go and don't cause trouble.  Instead, practice all the social arts and graces.  Be kind and considerate.  Speak gently and with compassion.  Try to understand.  Be tolerant.  Smile.  Be agreeable.  Be likeable.  I know, I know.  I said I had just one suggestion.  I do.  But isn't it true that to accomplish the one thing I suggested, "Don't cause trouble," you're going to have to make postive efforts (plural is correct).

Stop right there.  Eliminate those negative thoughts and give it a try this year.  Who knows, if it works, you just might have a good time instead of a bad one.  Wouldn't that be nice?