This is the time of year we try to get with friends and family—to experience tradition, so rekindle those relationships that can get neglected the rest of the year. It can be the greatest of times or a time fraught with tension, disappointment, or even conflict. Too often we spend our time hoping that this year will be different. Our family and friends will become like we hope they will be; they’ll notice our accomplishments (and if you think that’s not important, reread all those Christmas letters that go on page after page), they will affirm us, we will feel honored and special.
Maybe the gifts you give this year that will be the most cherished will be the gift of affirmation, and yes, true friendship to all those around you, including your family! This idea was strongly illustrated to me a few years ago. My husband, Bob and I spent a week with a mentoring group in upstate New York. Tracey shared one night that her family was neither affirming nor affectionate. It was a lack she had felt keenly for years. That is, until, about seven years ago when she made a decision. She would stop hoping for them to become the family she wanted and needed but instead she would treat them as though they already were that family. So, persistently and consistently, she asked them about their interests, opportunities, and challenges which helped her to understand their work, their family, and their lives. She looked for several ways to affirm them. She greeted them with a huge hug—and left them the same way. She didn’t leave them without saying, “: I love you!”
Seven years down the road, guess what? She has the family she now wants! Her family members are now affectionate, affirming, and yes, even a whole lot more fun! All because one member decided that change could begin with her.
If you think you are too small to make a difference, spend a night with a mosquito!
So, what are some ways to get started? I find that having an arsenal of great questions that you’ve prepared beforehand can transform even the most mundane time into an amazing conversation. So, what are some questions that you might ask your family that could make a difference this season?
1. What are you most excited about this year? (and feel free to respond enthusiastically as they tell you!)
2. What are the things that you hope to see accomplished in 2011?
3. What are the greatest challenges that you are facing right now?
4. What has been most helpful to you so far in dealing with your challenges?
5. What has been least helpful?
6. What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?
7. What could I learn from them?
8. Is there anyway that I could serve you?
This holiday season, the choice is yours. What gifts will you give? Luke 6:38 reminds us, “Give, and it shall be given to you, pressed down, shaken together it will come running over into your lap.” Give love, and receive it back. Give affirmation and friendship—and it will come running over into your lap as you enjoy deeper more meaningful relationships. I hope that this Christmas season is your best ever as you give your gifts away!
“With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”