Here is an easy, painless, and guaranteed way to deal with the relational challenges of the holidays (if video screen does not appear below, click here).

Actually, there is no such thing as an easy, painless, and guaranteed way to deal with relational challenges.

Like everything else of real value, relationships are worthy of a significant investment of time, planning, and emotional energy. Here are a few practical ways you can invest in your relationships during the holidays, during personal conversations and family gatherings.

  • Set aside time to pray about relationships that would benefit from special attention during the holidays. Not little token prayers. Real prayers. Earnest prayers.
  • Arrange to have coffee or a meal with someone who could use encouragement or may need to talk through some particular issues with you (Matt. 5:23-24). Settle personal differences and strengthen bonds before relatives come together.
  • Look for lonely people. Those who are shy, disconnected, recently widowed or divorced. Bring them into your family and your heart.
  • Listen … listen … listen. I mean REALLY listen (Prov. 18:13). Consciously shut off the background programs in your mind while others are talking. Don’t plan your response until you really understand what the other person is saying and feeling. Listen so earnestly that the other person feels fully heard.
  • Listen for feelings. As others are talking, ask yourself, “What is she feeling right now? What is God calling me to do in response to those feelings?” (Rom. 12:15).
  • Surprise people with a long overdue confession (Prov. 28:13). When I called an old attorney friend to tell him how sorry I was for something I’d said five years earlier, he started to cry. Neither he nor I had realized until that moment how much my earlier words had hurt him … or how much my confession would mean to him.
  • Surprise other people with long overdue forgiveness. Remember how graciously and lavishly God has forgiven you (Eph. 4:32). Pull down the walls. End the feuds. Be friends again.
  • Share special memories and thank people for how they’ve blessed you. Say the things today that you would wish you’d said if that other person was suddenly taken away.
  • Pay attention to other people’s children. Draw them into your conversations. Ask them meaningful questions and show genuine interest in their answers. Their parents will love you for it.

Most importantly, bring Jesus into your conversations. Speak of him not as a distant God but as your personal friend (John 15:15), your brother (Heb. 2:11), as someone you talked with this morning, someone who has lavished his love on you, someone who brings you more joy, peace, and hope than you ever thought possible. Speak of him in a way that makes others want to know him too.

Invest deliberately and generously in your relationships in the weeks ahead, and you may find that this is the best Thanksgiving and the most relational Christmas you’ve ever known.

- Ken Sande

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.

© 2013 Ken Sande

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