Thanksgiving will be here before we know it, and most of us will be gathered with friends and family to eat good food, watch football, and hopefully enjoy fellowship with one another. However, the Thanksgiving table isn’t always a peaceful, pleasant place.
If your family is normal, there will be a certain amount of tension or drama accompanying every get-together. It can be big things or petty things, but chances are there is at least a possibility of someone saying the wrong thing and someone getting their feelings hurt. Thanksgiving, just like any family gathering, can be a time of love or a time of strife depending on how one person acts.
Paul writes in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Here are five ways we can put this into practice this Thanksgiving.
Don’t talk politics
Honestly, this should be common courtesy in every situation. Talking politics usually causes divisions and leads to arguing. Even if you and your family members are generally on the same page politically, talking about it will only make someone angry at the people “out there” who don’t agree. In any situation, talking politics leads to frustration and complaining, both of which have no place at the Thanksgiving table. So if your ultra-liberal aunt or ultra-conservative uncle shows up armed and ready for “friendly debate,” leave it alone.
Don’t instigate or respond to provocation
Unless you’re an only child, you probably have a sibling who knows exactly how to push your buttons. Or maybe you’re that sibling. Either way, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to let go of petty annoyances and learn to get along. Small provocations can lead to larger resentments and bitterness, and getting the upper hand in the small stuff isn’t worth it.
Be helpful, not a burden
This one may seem trivial, but it makes a big difference. My family is large (I’m one of seven children), so when we get together for any occasion we make a big mess. And Thanksgiving only amplifies it. My sister actually had a great idea to keep my mom from doing everything herself. All the adults and older teens draw a piece of paper from a bowl and they have to do whatever chore is written on it.
But even if your family is small or you don’t have a system like that, helping relieve the burden can make all the difference. Whether it’s washing the dishes, putting away leftovers, or simply getting the kids out of the way, every little thing you do will contribute to making the holiday peaceful and pleasant for everyone.
It’s a great thing to be close enough to a friend or family member that they can share their concerns and problems with you, but it is times like this that your relationship can either break or grow stronger. For me personally, I am a fixer. If I see a problem or difficulty in someone’s life, I feel as if I know the solution. Oftentimes, it is difficult for me to keep the solution to myself when what they really need is for me to simply listen.
If you’re a fixer like me, you have to be trustworthy. They have to trust that you won’t walk all over their concerns with your solutions and make them feel stupid or foolish for not seeing it themselves. Be the kind of person that they know they can go to for encouragement and support, not a diagnosis and prescription.
Share the gospel by loving
As Christians, these holiday gatherings can be particularly difficult if there is a family member or a friend who is lost. We want to reach out to them, but there are wrong ways of doing this. If we walk in the door and immediately confront them with eternal life or death, they are going to shut you out. If you talk to them about their soul in the hearing of other people, they will be embarrassed and defensive, and you will look like the bad guy.
Instead, trust the Father. Be loving and gracious to them. Earn their trust. Show genuine care and affection. Demonstrate that there is a difference in your own life. Let Christ flavor the way you speak and act. You may not get to directly speak to them about the state of their souls, but at the very least they will leave the gathering having encountered Jesus in your grace, service, and love.