How to be Joyful Amidst Family Drama

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How to be Joyful Amidst Family Drama

By Renee Bennett


There is nothing like family gatherings – coming together to create wonderful memories with loved ones. But what if your family situation isn’t as idyllic as the ones you see in the Hallmark movies?

You may even feel reluctant or apprehensive about gathering with your family because the tensions rise when you’re together. Maybe there are differences of opinion between family members, a history of past hurts, or issues that haven’t been resolved.

Before you head to your next family gathering, here are five tips on how you can maintain joy in the midst of family drama:

1. You have a choice

You can refuse to be offended. You probably already know the people and the discussions that will get heated. Decide beforehand that you will not engage.

It may take some self-control, but just because someone says something you don’t like, doesn’t mean you have to respond, or take it personally.

Take a deep breath, and refuse to let what they say offend you. Being offended is so prevalent in today’s society, but you really do have the choice to take no offense. Try listening and asking questions instead.

Even if you don’t agree at the end, if you listen to their perspective, you’ll learn something about how that person came to believe what they do. Each person is a collection of their experiences so it can be very interesting to discover how they came to their conclusions.

Yes, even if the topic is politics, you can ask questions, listen, and refuse to become angry or offended.

2. You can only control yourself

You can’t stop Uncle Bill from interrupting everyone with stories to top everyone else’s. You can’t stop your mother from telling you how you should dress or cut your hair. You can’t control anyone… except yourself.

You can control your response. You can laugh it off, you can agree to get that haircut, or think of a variety of other responses besides letting things get under your skin. If you already know the things that will bother you, why let them?

You can’t make others behave the way you wish they would, but you can control your attitude and response toward them. You’ll have (and be!) a lot more fun if you lighten up and don’t let things bother you.

3. Set boundaries

Some family relationships are unhealthy, and it’s not good for you to put yourself in unhealthy or even dangerous circumstances. If you have a family member who is verbally abusive, calls you names, yells at you, or worse… you are free to remove yourself from the situation.

If you see things heading downhill, you can give your family a calm warning. “I will not accept being called names. If you continue to call me names, I will need to leave.”

Then… do it.

Don’t lose your cool and escalate the situation. Set clear boundaries and enforce them if necessary.

Sadly, there are some situations when it’s best you don’t continue in relationship with those family members. If you have done your best, and the other person continues to treat in you in an unhealthy manner, it’s OK to protect yourself by keeping your distance.

It is your right to guard yourself from abuse. Just remember that you can still forgive them even if it is from a distance.

Lewis Smedes once said,

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

Forgiveness is far more important for your own health than it is for the person you are forgiving.

4. Enjoy the time you have

If your family isn’t abusive, but there are irritating quirks that drive you nuts, like Dad eating off your plate, or a sibling who brags about his new car and bigger house, remember you won’t have your family members forever.

Someday when they are gone, you will realize how small most of those annoyances are, and you will miss your family members. Try to appreciate them and the time you have together while you still can. Keep in mind that you probably do things that irritate them too!

5. Reward yourself!

If you made it through your family gathering and kept your cool when you usually don’t, congratulations! You have made a healthy step in preserving your family ties and building memories with the people who have helped make you into the person you are today.

Be thankful for the people in your life – some people are alone and would love to be a part of your crazy family.

If you handle your family drama with grace this year, then afterwards you can head home, make a yummy snack, watch a movie that makes you laugh, go for a run, or settle down with a good book. Find something that makes you happy – and treat yourself.

Time is short, and you won’t have your family forever. It is much better to live in peace with them than to engage in family drama. Life is hectic, busy, and the weeks turn into years quickly. Enjoy those people in your life.

It’s the differences in one another that make life interesting! And the peace you’ll enjoy from good family relationships will stay with you the rest of your life.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18