Every fall you plan where you will spend your holidays, and chances are, in the process, you inadvertently wound or disappoint someone–or they end up wounding you. Situations like: if you are married and have two sets of in-laws, it's easy for one set to feel slighted. Maybe your husband wants to spend the "special" days with his folks, and you want to spend them with yours? Or this year, you'd both just like to keep it simple and spend Christmas at home with your own children? Or maybe you are single and you've made plans with that dear friend you haven't seen for awhile, but your roommate feels slighted and keeps dropping hints to guilt you into an invitation. Are these or related scenarios stressing you out? Sometimes do you wish you could clone yourself and be in four places at once to keep everyone happy? Is your inability to meet all the impossible demands dampening your Christmas spirit? If so, let's consider some firm but gracious responses to keep Christmas relationships kind but guilt free.
What do you do when advertisers enclose a dollar, a stamp, or address labels, into their snail mail appeal for money for their cause? Do you feel guilty if you take the dollar, the stamp, or the address labels without making a donation? I don't. I'm irked at their attempt to manipulate me so I keep the bribe and toss the request. And right now I'm dealing with the tension that you might think I'm a bad person–but, hey, I refuse to go there. I dislike passive aggressive manipulation, and that's how I feel when I receive that kind of appeal. It's the same feeling I get when a friend or relative "sweetly" uses guilt to try to manipulate holiday plans to their advantage. I grew up with that foolishness–no more.
I've learned to prayerfully and kindly plan the holidays, remembering that my first priority is to my immediate family and what's best for them. I try to take into consideration last year's plans and do my best to make sure that loved ones receive their "fair share" of our time and devotion, and I want to be reasonable about what I expect from them.
My goal is to help all of us remember that Christmas is actually about the birth of our Savior. I can celebrate that alone or just with my husband, or with all my children and grandchildren around the table. Some years they'll all be there, and some they won't. Giving everyone the freedom to spend those special days where they believe they need to be is one of the best gifts we can give our loved ones.
Good questions for all of us to ask might be: What helps all of us focus on the true meaning of Christmas? and how do we all love each other well through the giving of time and gifts?
Is anyone demanding undue attention or insisting that everyone else alter plans to suit their whims? If so, I've learned to graciously but firmly refuse those demands. Will some people be upset? Maybe. But my refusal to give in to their manipulation is actually good for them, and in time, reasonable people get over it.
Live to please an audience of One.
If I don't, I find myself running around trying to please everyone, and in the process, spoiling the holiday for myself and many of my loved ones. If I give in to unreasonable demands, I'm continuing my unhealthy pattern of people-pleasing. Learning to share our loved ones is a sign of mature love. If you're struggling to do that, ask God to help you. I'm not saying that you won't feel disappointed when plans don't work out according to your Norman Rockwell dreams–you probably will. But take hold of those feelings and submit them to Christ. He can help all of us celebrate the true meaning of Christmas regardless of who we are with.
So if you're experiencing the Christmas doldrums brought on by Christmas martyrs, guilting you into doing Christmas their way, and it's not too late to change your plans, kindly but firmly alter your plans for the right reasons. If it's too late, make the best of it–and don't let it spoil your Christmas. But resolve that next fall, you'll pray fervently for God to guide you as you make good holiday plans through healthy interactions with family and friends–plans that will help you and your loved ones focus on the true meaning of Christmas.