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Holidays and Family Reunions

by Dr. Sidney Langston

The holidays are traditionally a time for family reunions. For some this is a joyous time, but for others it will be emotionally painful and a time they dread and wish to avoid.


This is because they’ve been victims of dysfunctional family life that has taken a toll on them as individuals. They function reasonably well when they are not around their families. However, when they are with their families they fall back into old patterns of feeling and behaving. Thus they may end up even more emotionally battered and bruised than before. They do not look forward to the holidays and usually become discouraged and/or depressed as a result of being with their families. Instead of being a haven, the family gathering becomes a war zone.


I’d like to suggest that this does not have to be. Family reunions can be a time for healing old wounds if that is your desire (Eccl. 3:1-3). If you are facing such a situation this holiday season, start by taking a close look at your own life. Ask yourself what you can do to ensure that your behavior does not contribute to ongoing hostility and estrangement. Purpose in your heart that you will attempt to interact with each family member with encouragement and love (I Thess. 5:11; Eph. 4:29). This doesn’t mean that you’ll agree with everything they do. It does mean you will show family members love while in a kind, gentle, but firm manner refusing to engage in unhealthy behaviors with them (Gen. 50:17; Eph. 4:31-32).      


Enter into reunion activities leaving behind any unrealistic expectations of a “Norman Rockwell” holiday. Purpose, at least for the holidays, to table your differences and unresolved griefs with each other while keeping in mind: “Therefore, my brothers I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,” (Acts 13:38); and that God will carry your burdens (Psalm 68:19). To do so, temporarily helps clear the air and provides the atmosphere and opportunity to enjoy one another’s company. It may even provide an opportunity to see what your family might be like if it were more emotionally healthy. Read Matthew 18:21-35.


As family members feel love, support and relief from family tensions, a foundation is provided for some healing to occur (Mal. 4:2). It may even serve to motivate your family to want to do all they can to recover from their dysfunctional patterns of relating to one another.


Another step is to look for the good qualities in your family members versus allowing yourself to dwell on their negative features. It is a learned tendency in dysfunctional families to focus on the negative rather than the positive. You might be really surprised to discover that those for whom you harbor dislike actually are not all bad. They probably do have some pleasing attributes.

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