The festive season can often stir up emotions regarding the imperfections we see in our immediate and extended families.
Our families might look perfect at times but in reality they will never be perfect.
The best we can do is allow ourselves to be authentic with one another. And in turn, actively listening and empathising with those in our family who are being vulnerable before us.
It’s okay to feel sad or angry with the actions of a family member. Judgement doesn’t help.
You don’t need to pretend just because it’s Christmas time.
Be open. Be honest. You can accept and respect someone whilst still disagreeing with them. You can also choose to forgive them at this point. If, however, their actions are still causing you hurt, you don’t need to be in their company. Even if it is Christmas.
Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Reconciliation can only happen if the person whose actions are causing hurt is willing to accept responsibility and work towards a better future together.
I love Richard Jenkins’ line in ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ when he’s speaking with Julia Roberts. In discussing her divorce, she says that she still misses her ex-husband. He responds, “So miss him. Send him light and love every time you think of him, then drop it.”
You don’t just drop it without trying hard though.
Showing love to someone in your family isn’t about doing it in a way that is convenient to you but in a way that speaks volumes to them, based on who they are and how they perceive love. And if they really love you, they’ll make it their mission to get to know you deeply and do the same for you.
But sometimes you can love someone till you’re blue in the face and they’ll just throw it back in your blue face. And that’s when I think the Eat, Pray, Love line can help. When a family member just refuses to pull their head in, you can send them light and love. You can pray for them. You can keep hoping for healing. Then you can let go.
Christmas is just one day in a calendar of 364 others. Be the same person on Christmas day as you are the rest of the year.