Until a few weeks ago, I had never watched an episode of “Holiday Baking Championship.” To date, I’ve binged six seasons. I can’t get enough!
As both professional and amateur bakers battle it out for $25,000 and the coveted title of “Holiday Baking Champion,” one theme consistently pops up: family. That’s because Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are about as “family” as it gets. And everyone talks about spending time with family around this time.
Let’s put it this way: Your mom doesn’t ask if you’re coming home for Labor Day, but she definitely asks if you’re coming home for Christmas.
But while watching a recent episode, my mind wandered to another reality: For many people, family time around the holidays isn’t a source of peace but instead comes with a lot of anxiety, anger, hurt and pain. And that may be your reality.
Maybe you don’t have a relationship with your parents. Maybe your siblings have hurt you. Maybe your children are wayward. Then, the thought of spending time with family this Christmas season is the opposite of exciting.
So what do you do? Well, I want to offer a tip that’s both easy and hard. Simple and complex. It’s this: give more grace.
Yes, give your family more grace.
I get it. It’s hard. But as I’ve said before, many times the right things are. But I think too many of us are content to live in a state of anger due to family conflict – conflict that may have started five, 10 or even 20 years ago. But we don’t realize what that’s doing to us on the inside.
There’s an old saying, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Unfortunately, too many times, we hold on to family strife without realizing that the more we grip it, the more we let it steep into our souls; we are actually the ones it’s affecting most.
When that happens – when we find ourselves shirking away from the thought of being with those we love because of conflict – we’re actually called to release it, to give grace.
Not surprisingly, this is a concept we find in the Bible. Here’s what the book of Romans, chapter 12, verses 14-21, says:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
That’s pretty clear, isn’t it?
Friend, we are called to live in peace with each other. You’re actually called to give more to those difficult family members this year, especially when we feel justified in our anger. And I’m here to tell you that, while that’s hard, it’s necessary. Especially this holiday season. Why? For starters, the more you hold onto it, the more it starts rotting you from the inside out.
But here’s one of the best reasons to give more grace this Christmas: Because it’s what this season is all about. It’s what God did for us. In the end, God gave us a gift we didn’t deserve. He gave us a gift after we wronged Him. He gave us a gift that cost Him everything and us nothing. In His grace, He gave us Jesus, and that’s why we celebrate Christmas.
Listen, I can’t guarantee that your display of grace won’t still be met with hostility. I can’t guarantee that it will repair every broken bridge. I can’t guarantee you that, like in some Hallmark movies, everything will be fine in the end.
However, I can guarantee you that if you give more grace this Christmas – if you follow God’s example – there’s something that happens inside of you that’s beautiful. You become a more peaceful person. You focus on what actually matters. You stop poisoning yourself and may actually start healing.
One caveat: Giving grace does not mean subjecting yourself to abuse or compromising your safety. There’s a way to give grace and forgiveness while still walking away from toxic people and relationships. I don’t pretend threading that needle is easy, either. But it’s also necessary. That’s where you have to pray for wisdom.
But in the end, I think if we err on the side of giving more grace, then we’ll experience the freedom this Christmas season that could transform and warm those once-cold relationships that are desperate for a breakthrough.
So I want to encourage you to follow God’s example. Give the gift of grace this Christmas season, and just watch what it does. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Jonathon M. (Jon) Seidl is a writer, speaker, and digital media strategist. He’s the author of the #1 bestseller, Finding Rest: A Survivor’s Guide to Navigating the Valleys of Anxiety, Faith, and Life.