Every significant relationship will face challenges with communication and conflict resolution. This holds true for couples, families, friends, and co-workers. Married couples who, at times, struggle in this part of their relationship are not unique. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 7:28 that “those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”
And we all know these communication and conflict struggles are heightened during the holidays. Those holidays are here, which means it’s time for food, football, and friends. And along with the good times come countless opportunities for relational challenges.
But as my friend often says, with every challenge comes an even greater opportunity.
This holiday season, by following these three principles of healthy, biblical conflict resolution, you can turn the communication challenges of family into opportunities for relational growth.
1) You don’t have to fight and argue over every, tiny, little, itty, bitty thing.
Maybe it’s the pressure of the holiday season, but for some reason, we’re more prone to argue and nitpick over the small things. This especially holds true with the ones we love the most. Whether it’s our favorite college football team (Go Wake Forest!), the way we cook the turkey, or when we open Christmas gifts, we can and will fight and argue over anything and everything.
The writer of Proverbs 19:11b says, “It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” This means sometimes we can simply overlook our differences. This doesn’t mean we ignore sin or tolerate someone harming us, but it does mean we can choose to look the other way, especially if it’s something small or related to a preference.
1 Corinthians 13:7 says love believes all things. This means when we love someone, we choose to believe the best about them instead of assuming the worst. Believe the best and choose to overlook minor offenses. Your holidays will be much more enjoyable.
Question: What’s the one thing you tend to be defensive about during the holidays? Are there any minor offenses you can choose to overlook?
2) Choose to fight!
OK, which is it, Scott? Stop fighting or start fighting?
While we need to stop nitpicking over the little, minor things, as followers of Christ, sometimes we’re just way too nice. Yes, we’re supposed to be kind and gentle, but other times we’re too nice to each other.
Get into a healthy argument. Feel free to disagree with someone else when it comes to football or politics. No one wants to spiral down into the presidential debate of 2020, but it’s OK and healthy to sometimes engage in a healthy, others-honoring debate.
We usually think we must all be quiet and get along. But you can disagree about religion and politics in a loving, God-honoring way. Challenge each other in a kind way instead of being nice, boring, polite Christians.
Question: Are there times in the past when you’ve suppressed an area of passion or opinion in the name of being nice? Jesus never tells us to be nice. Don’t be afraid to mix it up a little bit this holiday season. But again, keep in mind #1 above.
3) Don’t grumble or complain
I’m preaching to the choir on this one. I’ve found myself grumbling and complaining many times the last few weeks. Whether you overlook an offense or choose to fight, do so without complaining or arguing.
Philippians 2:14-15 says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…”
It’s too hot. Too cold. I’m too busy. I’m hungry. I’m bored (OK, I’ve never said that one, but you get the point). We complain too often. When we do, we do not shine like lights in the world. Rather, we snuff the lights out.
Instead of whining and complaining like the rest of the world, what if we chose to do be joyful and gracious. We don’t need to be fake or pretend, but most of us can grow in doing all things without grumbling or complaining.
Question: Would you say you’re marked more by joy and grace or complaining and grumbling? If you don’t know, then ask someone close to you to give you an honest assessment.
This Christmas, let’s choose to be different than the pattern of the world. Choose to overlook minor differences, pick a fight every once in a while (in a healthy way), and relate to others without grumbling or complaining. And have yourself a Merry Little Christmas!
This blog post (slightly modified from the original) was first posted on Pine Cove’s blog on November 13, 2019.