Showing Grace to Hostile Family Members During the Holidays
By Julie Polanco
While I love the beauty of autumn, the warmth of Thanksgiving, and the hope of Christmas, I cringe as I climb in the car to travel to family gatherings. You see, my sister is a public-school teacher and my mother actively promotes formal schooling of all sorts. You can imagine what kind of atmosphere that creates for my family and me, homeschoolers from the beginning. On top of that, they have something against “large” families (I have four children) because they constantly make remarks like, “because you have too many/so many kids…” I guess any more than two is too many.
For the most part, all these long years, I would grin and bear it, while inside, I fumed and wept. When we got in the car, the kids endured my husband and me venting for an hour as we drove home. But, in more recent years, I began to recognize how unhealthy all this pent-up emotion was and I strove to find better ways to deal with it. I found Gary Chapman’s book, Anger: Taming a Powerful Emotion, and implemented some of his principles.
Do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not let the devil get a foothold
The first thing I did was determine in my heart not to “grin and bear it” any longer. I decided to lovingly confront these insults at the time they occurred. I took deep breaths and fought off the instinct to harbor resentment. It was sooo hard! As I spoke up, I was careful not to speak in angry tones, use sarcasm or insults, or attack their character. Instead, I formulated a phrase to use– “When you _______ I/my child feel(s)__________and that causes me/that child to_____________. Is that what you want?” They began to see how their offhand jokes, sarcasm, questions, and comments affected us. I noticed a subtle change in their behavior. After years of hurtful words and actions the healing will be slow, but at least things are starting to change.
Do not take revenge, my friends
Even while I fought hard to not let any new hurts occur, I still carried a lot of pain from the past. My husband commented on how he could hear it in my voice whenever I talked about my sister and mother. He said to me, “Julie, you have to let that go. You have to give it to God.” I admitted he was right, but, at first, I didn’t want to. But, God spoke to me and showed me that harboring resentment and anger only hurt me, not them. The spiritual and physical reality was that I punished myself by holding on to my pain. It didn’t seem practical or profitable to confront them about all the past hurts, so I had to unload that burden at the feet of Jesus—and leave it there. (For more about forgiveness, check out this post).
After implementing these biblical principles (why didn’t I do it sooner?), I’m not dreading this year as much as previous years. In addition to what I’ve talked about, we pray before we head into my parents’ house and remind ourselves that we aren’t there to please them. We’re there to please Jesus.
Julie is a veteran homeschool mom of 4 all of whom have special needs and has a degree from the School of Natural Healing! She also teaches middle school science workshops for a homeschool co-op. Her faith in Jesus leads everything she does including worship for the Women’s ministry at her church! You can read more about her in her new book called God Schooling or her blog, julienaturally.com!