Have you ever experienced a holiday celebration where all family members are expected to attend, yet not all the family members really enjoy being together?
Over the years, differing opinions about raising children, politics, faith, sibling rivalry and career competition/expectations take a toll on relationships. Instead of enjoying each other’s company, people walk on eggshells and make superficial conversation until enough time has passed that it is acceptable to leave.
“If you ever wonder why things are all torn up in your life at Christmas, probably someone is angry,” says Jan Silvious, author, speaker and counselor. “It is easy to fall into an angry way of thinking when people don’t think just like you. Anger has the capacity to hold people at bay, scare people, get them to do what you want them to do, and even justify your feelings. People feel powerful when they have anger, but the truth is you are never more powerless than when you are angry.”
Consider this: what exactly do you hope to accomplish with your anger? Do you want to prove your point? Keep people at arm’s length? Pay them back for the way they treated you? Or enjoy watching everybody bend over backwards to make sure you are happy?
“I ask people these questions and then I ask them how it is working for them,” Silvious says. “Most of the time they recognize that it isn’t really working for them and it certainly isn’t a relationship-builder. Anger creates an arrangement in which a lot of people live, especially at Christmas. Many people have probably never considered the value of holding on to their anger. As far as I can tell, there is none. All that is reaped from anger is destruction.”
If you ever wonder why people don’t want to come to your Christmas celebration, perhaps you have an angry spirit that drives people away. Anger is hard to hide.
“When anger is present everybody is different, which is a huge thing for holidays,” Silvious says. “We live on edge never knowing what to expect. Anger always messes with kindness and belonging. It says you don’t belong here. What could be a happy and loving time for people turns into a nightmare. The million dollar question is – is it worth it?”
It has been said that one of the most important lessons in life is learning to choose your battles. When it comes to letting your anger drive a wedge in family relationships, this lesson may be worthy of consideration.
“Some people have been mad for so long they have forgotten what they were angry about in the first place,” Silvious says. “The sad part is they are so used to operating out of this frame of reference that they do it out of habit.”
If you recognize you are the angry person in your family, consider acknowledging that and asking for forgiveness.
“Pride is what gets in the way of people putting aside their differences and learning to love each other as the unique human beings that God made us to be. When people humble themselves before each other and learn to love each other in spite of their differences, amazing things happen in families. A humble person says to others, ‘I want to work on my anger.’ A prideful person refuses to acknowledge the impact of their behavior on the family.”
People who are angry are holding themselves hostage. Perhaps you have the opportunity to reconcile some relationships this holiday season. Is there a better gift you can give yourself and the person with whom you are angry than letting them off the hook?
“There is a warmth that comes from the core of our being when forgiveness occurs in our lives,” Silvious says. “We tend to think more tenderly of the person. People make eye contact more often and healing takes place…even when you are not able to actually talk about what happened. Forgiveness means giving up the right to punish and allowing yourself the freedom to give a soft answer and respond in kindness as opposed to harshness.”
Consider making the decision to not carry your anger through another holiday season and choosing to reconcile.