Larry Crabb, made this observation regarding men, in his book, “The Silence of Adam.” “Men are easily threatened. And whenever a man is threatened, when he becomes uncomfortable in places within himself that he does not understand, he naturally retreats into an arena of comfort or competence, or he dominates someone or something in order to feel powerful. Men refuse to feel the paralyzing and humbling horror of uncertainty, a horror that could drive them to trust, a horror that could release in them the power to deeply give themselves in relationship.” Do you feel threatened by the unpredictable nature of seeing all those relatives again? How will you react when you feel uncomfortable? What about the uncertainty of those “relational minefields.” Here are a few tips for negotiating the “mine fields” of relationships.
First, and foremost, make sure your heart is clear. What do I mean? Let me tell you from personal experience, that if you have not forgiven and let go of any bitterness, resentment or anger towards any family member, they will have a “hook” into your soul. Only with a “clear heart” will you be able to accept another family member for who they are, created in God’s image, a fallen person just as you are. Keep “short accounts” with the offenses that have been committed against you, by forgiving and letting the others go. Men, don’t let another family member steal your peace. You might have to practice continual forgiveness during your gathering
Secondly, when you let someone go through forgiveness, who has been stuck cross-ways in your heart, you create space in your heart for that person. This will allow you to practice hospitality. You will be able to welcome that person’s presence into your space, rather than wanting to avoid them or become defensive in their presence. With a “clear heart” you will have the grace to give up your expectations of how they should be relating to you. Remember you will not be able to control the dynamics that will be on display in your family gathering.
Thirdly, in humility confess and admit to the Lord, that you do not have love for all those family members. This is very normal. After all, you are related to family members who are very different then you, having their unique perspective on the family dynamic. Nothing keeps me more humble. I cry out for mercy and grace before and during our get together. I ask for a heart and mind that will be openly accepting of others. Each one can teach me more about how I still have to die to my way of viewing family relationships.
Fourthly, determine to be an instrument of peace. Above all else, don’t let gossip, slander, or backbiting be a part of your conversation. Determine before hand to put the best construction on other relatives. Go into your family gathering with a “servant’s heart.” Practice what I call “holy courtesy” by showing a genuine interest in the story of all your relatives, no matter how they might treat you. I have to continually ask myself, “How best can I contribute to the harmony and unity of the family?”
Here is good reminder from Col 3:13-14, “Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” (Message). Men, ask God for grace and mercy to be clothed with this “all-purpose garment.”