3 Ways to Avoid Awkward Holiday Conversations
Cue the Soft, Peaceful Music…
I love the Christmas season. The deeper my walk with Christ, the more I appreciate the time when we celebrate His incarnation. Yes, I’m a foodie – all the foods, drinks, smells, and flavors of Thanksgiving and the weeks leading up to Christmas create vivid, IMAX moments in my memory of seasons past. The most powerful thought that comes to my mind each year is that Jesus came to earth to deal with the source of our troubles – sin and death.
Everyone around you has the same problems. Sin and death. Some just experience louder and longer versions of the same struggles. Some just have layers and layers of problems piled on them. But, essentially it all comes down to the problem of living in a broken, Genesis 3 world. We’ve trained our oldest daughter to recognize one of the simplest results of the Fall – hurt people hurt people. And, we’re all hurt people, but grace means we don’t have to let the cycle continue and we don’t have to be the source of someone else’s hurt.
Enter “The Awkward Conversation”
What does the intersection of Thanksgiving/Christmas and “hurt people” mean to you? Sometimes, it means running into someone you haven’t seen in a long time and asking one of those “awkward” questions:
“So, Sandy, you and Rick getting married soon?” Rick just left Sandy for his executive assistant. Oops.
“Hey, great to see you! Where’s Margaret?” Margaret died of cancer three weeks ago. Tragic silence.
Rewriting the Script:
Too close to home? Been there. Done that. So, what do I do, show up and not say anything? Well. That’s an option… But, the bible offers several practical disciplines that God commands us to practice before that awkward conversation that will make it ten times easier to handle the kinds of situations that only exist in a fallen broken world filled with fallen broken people. Actors don’t just “learn lines”, they prepare their character. Athletes don’t just work out, they practice their craft. Wise disciples of Christ engage the Master and His wisdom.
1. Show up “Clean”.
For years, Men Step Up’s table leaders have carried a card around in their wallets that demands of them 5 things, one of which is “Show up clean and on time.” “Clean” to these guys and to anyone as a disciple of Christ who disciples others, means asking themselves and the Lord this one question: “Lord, is there any unconfessed sin in my life?” David wrote “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139.22-24)” Jesus would later teach in the Beattitudes: “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Bottom line – sin clouds our vision and numbs us to not only the voice of the Holy Spirit, but the innate sensibilities God has impressed on our conscience and memory of Godly wisdom. This prevents us from paying attention to the fact that “Rick” isn’t in the room and Sandy looks a bit emotionally aloof or that Margaret, too, isn’t at the party and we recall her name showing up in a prayer chain email a few months back. What if we prayed those lines from Psalm 139 on the way to ever function and begged God to “create in [us] a clean heart?”
2. Stay Clean.
For personal reasons, Cristine and I have eliminated alcohol from our diet as of about two years ago. But, have you ever noticed that some of the most careless things can come out of our mouths after only one glass of wine or one snobby, locally-micro-brewed IPA? Scripture is replete with commands to “be alert”, “be sober minded”, “consider others better than yourselves”. When we’re not at peak performance, around tons of people (each of which bring their own “holiday” baggage to the room, not to mention our own), how can we possibly be as alert, sober minded, and attentive to the needs of others when we’re even mildly impaired? I could focus on the word “mildly”, but it’s used here to describe the word “impaired“. Are you with me?
So, as a rule, I used to show up with a “two drink maximum”. But, since we are all easily blinded by the wiles of our own indiscretions, what would it look like if you took the number of drinks you consider “conservative” and cut it in half or quarter?
3. Got Dirty? Get Clean Fast.
The most astounding prayer Jesus ever prayed was hanging on the cross while insults were being hurled at Him: “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” For you and I to get great at praying (and really meaning) that prayer is a major chunk of walking the Christian walk. Family times often bring awkward tensions brought about by unconfessed or unforgiven sins. Work parties can so easily turn into contests of who can suppress the urge to tell someone what they’ve wanted to say about unfair conditions the longest. But, forgiveness is the only true solution.
John Woodall once asked me “are you aware of your subtle methods of seeking revenge?” That question stuck with me like a drop of gas fallen from the pump onto my shoe. Impossible to shake the smell, right? It’s true – you and I all share in Cain’s folly… “I’ll show you!” The regular practice of confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation ought to flow from the believer with force.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Have a great Thanksgiving and a Christmas season marked by incredible “un-awkwardness”.