Don’t let conflict spoil your Christmas

I still remember the Christmas I let a passive-aggressive comment dampen my Christmas spirit. I made my best coconut cream pie–a Christmas family favorite. As I was slicing it up, I asked who wanted whipped cream. My husband's new step-mother answered back, "Is it real whipped cream or cool whip?" "It's real whipped cream," I responded thinking she would appreciate the extra mile. "Well," she huffed, "then I won't have any."

        Later I learned that this new member of our family secretly resented any woman who did not work outside the home–I was a stay-at-home mom at the time and my homemade goodies threatened her. That abrupt remark wounded my tender spirit and set our relationship on a rocky course. She died many years ago but I still regret that I took such offense. Oversensitive women can easily ruin Christmas for everybody.  
         We find similar situations throughout the pages of history. Even our larger-than-life heroines experienced conflict with other women. For example, Abigail Adams, the wife of our second president and mother of the sixth, stands as a tower of intellect, faith, and fortitude,  a model to those who read her biographies drawn from volumes of her letters preserved by historians. Yet her letters reveal a heart-wrenching conflict she carried to her grave. With husband John gone much of their married life, Abigail spent evenings corresponding with friends. One of the dearest was Mercy Warren, a woman of admirable intellect with whom she interacted on questions regarding the revolution and the birth of their beloved nation.  For over 30 years, these two astute women encouraged and inspired each other. As their friendship blossomed, Abigail wrote to Mercy,

    Let your letters be of the journal kind. I could participate in your amusements,
    in your pleasures, and in your sentiments which would greatly gratify me,
    and I should collect the best of intelligence.

But in 1805, Mercy’s three volumes on the American Revolution were published. Her work, according to both Abigail and John, contained numerous unflattering reports and “falsehoods” about John.
    John, cut to the quick, took issue with Mercy passage by passage, all three
    volumes worth, initiating an exchange of ten long, involved letters of
    accusation and reproach that mounted to screaming pitch before they were

    Alas, Abigail and Mercy parted bitterly. When Mercy’s husband died, Abigail wrestled with whether or not to at least send a note of sympathy.
    However, she recognized Mercy and John’s fundamentally opposing
    political beliefs, and was sadly resigned to the fact that the bitterness of
    party spirit had severed them. After the injustice to John’s character and
    the chance given Mercy to acknowledge her errors, which she wholly
    omitted to do, Abigail felt she had no alternative. “I thought a letter of the
    kind would appear insincere, and although I feel for her bereavement and
    know how heavily she must feel it, I have declined writing to her.”
Shortly before their deaths, tokens of forgiveness were offered and timidly accepted, but the fire of their friendship never rekindled.  How sad that these two women did not learn how to breach their differences, forgive one another, and restore their relationship.
       Are you at odds with a family member or good friend, and suffering as a result? Do you dread Christmas gatherings for fear of the tension that you all too often allow to spoil the season, not only for yourself but for others too. Consider how you might over look the issue or work through it, and replace resentment with Christian love? How sad if female conflict overshadows the real meaning of the holiday. Christmas is about God coming to earth as a tiny baby for the purpose of redeeming the world to Himself.  So what if she refuses your whipped cream? Serve her some cool whip with a smile or let her go without. But don't let her sidetrack you from the reason for the season. Advice from a lesson learned the hard way.

Dr. Edwards is Assistant Professor of Christian Education (Specialization: Women's Studies) at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds degrees from Trinity University, DTS, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is the author of New Doors in Ministry to Women, A Fresh Model for Transforming Your Church, Campus, or Mission Field and Women's Retreats, A Creative Planning Guide. She has 30 years experience in Bible teaching, directing women's ministry, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, and writing curriculum. Married to David for 34 years, she especially enjoys extended family gatherings and romping with her four grandchildren.


  • Joyce Watson

    I am spending time with my

    I am spending time with my own family, but I must admit rejection from other family members is hard sometimes.  This summer my family and I went on vacation, at the same time we visited family. We stopped to seem my husband's mom and his sister whom we had not seen in four years.  I thought it was strange that neither one of them gave us a hug when we arrived, so I reached out and gave them one.  Then, there were some ackward moments, I didn't know if my mother-in-law did not feel good or what, but I was nice to her the whole time.
    Then, we went to see my sister later. We went from S.C. to Georgia. She gave us a warm welcome and we ate supper with her. I had not visited with her in four or five years. When I talked to her on the phone about coming, she told me if you are coming let me know and I will wash my sheets, if not I won't bother. I decided not to stay at her house overnight, but to go to a motel.  While visiting I ignored the fact that her house was a mess, because I know she works and she has three kids that are teenagers with busy lives. She decided to go to the mall while I was there. Her daughter did nothing but pout the whole time I was there. Everything was fine until we sat down to eat, then she brought up the fact that I didn't move to Georgia, during the time she went through a divorce. She wanted me to babysit when the kids were smaller. Well, I live in Oklahoma and I couldn't move to Georgia. We were not rich.  My husband had a job here. My kids were under a program that paid for their college and they just recently finished college. All I could say is, I am sorry.  She has a good job and her kids are fine.

    So, I go from there to see my dad and some other relatives in Mississippi. My cousin and two aunts invited me to join them for lunch. My cousin offered to buy our lunch, she owns a radio station and can afford anything she wants.  But, we got seated down and I start to talk and my cousin tells me, I am not going to talk with you way over there when I cannot hear you across the table.  My two aunts stare at me and I just smiled.  Awkward! I didn't pick the place to eat, so I am sorry it was a little noisey in there. I went over to tell my cousin thank you for the meal and give her a gentle hug at the end. She backs away and looks around to see if anyone is looking. I was so embarrassed, so I did not touch her.  To make matters worse when I finally did get back home, my Aunt told me not to post pictures of my dad on facebook. 
    I blocked everyone related to me on facebook.  

    My dad remarried after my mother passed away. His other wife locked her bedroom door when she left the house, as if I wanted to go into her bedroom.  She doesn't want me to bring food and cook, she doesn't want me to do my laundry,even if my dad said it was okay, she doesn't want to look at old pictures with my dad, etc.  Appartently she doesn't want me there, yet it is okay if it is her own kids.  Last time I was home I left the sheets on the bed and the dirty towels and wash rags for her to wash. I drove from Oklahoma to Mississippi and we cannot afford a motel for three or four days. It is expensive.  But, I think I will get me a tent instead.  
    I have just thought I would write my adventures with family in a book.  Maybe, someone would get a laugh out of it.  I have resolved my issues by staying away from family, so I will  not be depressed.  I try to find others that need help and love them, I rather reach out to them instead.  Yes, I can forgive, its the forgetting that is hard.  I get this craziness everytime I go home, so I ask myself why bother.  The Lord is who I need.  He will provide all I need. It doesn't matter what others do to me, I am sticking with Him. Jesus knows what it is like to be rejected and I do too. And I want to have a loving, kind family. I guess that is why God has always had me live away from relatives instead of near them. He has a better plan.  

    • Sue Edwards

      So sorry


      I'm so sad that relatives have been so unkind. It is indeed a fallen world. Loving back is God's way. Good for you, and thank God for the family of God.

  • SonShine

    good advice

    You know if truth be known I am probably more guilty of offending by my comments than being offended. Probably that is why I keep a note on my Bible Study lesson "silence is golden" and why I pray that God would put a guard over my mouth and keep me back from presumptuous sins.

    Advice taken and hopefully applied …we all have those in our lives that offend and hurt…and we in turn do the same thing. Better to be open and ask: can I ask why no whipped cream? are you lactose intolerant? I am learning and hope that I will continue to learn…"put mind in gear before opening mouth."

    Sweet Sue. thank you for this advice. Timely and relevant

      • Joyce Watson

        I kept silent for years and I

        I kept silent for years and I have never said anything to my family about how I feel, because I can't, but sometimes I wonder how I am suppose to deal with all this stuff and what is it they have against me that I am treated like this.