The holidays are coming. (Hey, if it’s not too early for Target to play it up, it’s not too early for me, either.)
Can you feel the excitement? The joy? The wonder?
Or, like many folks, do you feel trepidation? Anxiety? Even fear?
If someone took a picture of you and your extended family, would it look like a Normal Rockwell painting? Or would it look more like this:
All smiles, but weapons loaded and ready.
A couple of years ago I wrote a series on Surviving the Holidays. I think some of the reasons Americans drown themselves in consumerism this time of year is not for the sake of giving. More likely, our overindulgence is an attempt to wrap up our pain, hide it away, and tie it up with a silver bow.
I sat with some friends the other day, many of us in tears, about our struggles to love people as Jesus commands, especially when some people are so hard to love. Indeed, we are called to love our enemies. But what does this look like? Are we, as Christians, utter failures if we cannot bring ourselves to literally wrap our arms around those who hurt us most?
Ultimately, we left the conversation that day, none of us feeling like our painful relational situations had been resolved. But we did agree on two things: 1) loving people the way Christ calls us to is a process which won’t be perfected until we reach Heaven; and 2) in a world as broken as ours, sometimes it is best–for the difficult person and for ourselves–to establish strong boundaries and protect our hearts and the hearts of the ones God has entrusted to us.
I don’t know about you, but I start early working to protect my heart and my household against the pain and duress which, in the past, has nearly ruined holidays. We’ve spent years establishing our own healthy traditions. Slowly but surely, we’re seeing generational cycles of emotional and physical abuse breaking.
And praise God, our children–the ones God placed under our roof–have a chance to live abuse-free lives. They are the first in a line of I don’t know how many generations on both sides of our families who will launch into the world without the baggage and wounds of abuse.
This big old ball of dirt is a hard enough place to walk around without having that.
Problem is, and as my counselor warned me, breaking generational cycles comes with a price. The price of being misunderstood. The price of being criticized, ridiculed, ostracized, even hated for establishing boundaries.
“I’m going to be a target, but I’m not going to be a victim.”
If you’re entering into yet another holiday season feeling like a victim; if you’re dreading once again dutifully taking the pain from relatives, mother-in-laws, steps and ex’s; if you’re knees start knocking at the thought of that awkward family photograph or dinner, I challenge you to consider this:
Have to live.
You have a choice. You can choose healing. You can choose to break cycles of abuse. You can choose to no longer carry the baggage and start new today.
Breaking generational cycles is hard, but so worth it. As Allendar writes, “An evil person, regularly and masterfully, portrays his motives and behavior as innocent. Others just do not understand. He is deceitfully gifted in making the victim of his abuse feel like the perpetrator of the harm. . . Evil misuses power and then claims innocence. If that is questioned, then evil uses shame or mockery to bludgeon the victim into accepting the shame.”
So no wonder it feels so yucky when you begin the journey.
But don’t accept the shame.
Step away from the bludgeoning.
Know you are SO not the perpetrator.
Immerse yourself this season not in decorations, schedules and shopping.
Instead, surround your soul with the hope of healing.
And accept the only true gift that will make you whole.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ~John 8:32
What about you? How have you broken cycles? How do you–or don’t you–deal with the holidays and why?