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Holiday time is family time
December 7, 2009
by Fr. Tom Balluff, St. Mary’s of Czestochowa, Delano

The holiday season is rapidly approaching – a time to get together with family and share what’s important in one’s life, hear what’s going in other family members’ lives, or just enjoy being together.

For many, it will be a wonderful time being with mom and dad, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and of course, our own family. For others, it can be a very painful time.

Some may have lost a loved one, or have no one to spend the holidays with. Some may come from very difficult family backgrounds and find being with family hard and painful.

I would like to offer some insights and possible suggestions that might help make time with family more enjoyable and positive during any holiday visit. I believe these skills to be universal and helpful for any situation.

• When we get together with family, remember that each of the members was born and grew up together, sharing a common history. This can make discussions and disagreements more intensely emotional. If we are aware of this when sharing about ourselves or listening to others share, we can make an intentional choice to be more generous in our hearing.

• Be careful not to fall into a judgmental attitude or perspective. We can always judge behavior to be right or wrong based on our values and convictions, but not the person. To judge a person and their possible motivation is to basically define them as being bad, wrong, or worthless. This type of relating attacks the person and can create a deep shame response.

We are all children of God, made in His image and likeness. Each and every one of us deserves the love and respect that comes with that.

• Developing and using good communication skills means that we will work hard at trying to understand where others are coming from. We will value and respect them, regardless of whether we agree with them or not.

Before we can disagree, it is critical for us to work at helping others feel heard and respected. Only after one feels that they have been heard can we disagree without hurting each other. It is when we do not feel heard, that we feel discounted or disrespected.

• It is very important that we are sensitive and aware of our own issues, so as not to misinterpret where others may be coming from. Our own baggage, hurts, and wounds can cause us to misinterpret and judge poorly another’s motivations. Remember that we all have our own stuff, and try to work hard at being gentle and kind with one another.

• All families have strengths, weaknesses, limitations, frailties, and gifts. The goal when coming together with family should be to love each other as authentically as possible. This is hard work, but the more we get it right and love well, with a Christ-like love, the more healing and strength we can give to those around us and draw from being together.

• A strong, consistent prayer life will lead us into a deeper friendship with our Lord and allow us to develop and grow stronger in good healthy communication skills. It is God that gives us the ability to be good. Gentleness, kindness, openness, honesty, generosity, and charity all come from the blessings and graces God wants to give us, which are the fruit of our prayer.

Best wishes for a loving and healthy holiday season.