It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
There is nothing that brings my heart more joy than being with family. My husband and I are extremely blessed to have four wonderful children together, and the majority of our immediate family live locally or just a short drive away. While we get to enjoy family time fairly regularly, I always look forward to Thanksgiving, when we travel to visit my extended family. The holidays are that special time for many people to meet up with loved ones they rarely see and reminisce, bond, and make memories together.
Guys, let’s be real. This year has been tough on everyone. The last few years have brought to light many social and political issues facing our nation, and all that building tension climaxed this year with possibly the most divisive election cycle in American history. While some people like to keep their circles small and unified in beliefs, I count myself lucky to belong to a large, diverse family holding many different opinions and convictions. The one thing that unites us — and probably how you can tell we’re related — is our passion and stubbornness when it comes to what we believe.
While I’m pretty sure my family’s Thanksgiving celebration will not include any punches being thrown (fingers crossed, y’all!), you might not have the same confidence for your own holiday gathering. If you are one of the many people worried about facing family with whom you disagree politically this holiday season, remember these pointers to make sure your get-togethers go smoothly, and maybe one day you can even look back on this year and laugh. Or you can just survive until January; I mean whatever you gotta do, bruh.
- Go with a plan. And the plan is, let’s just not. If everyone at your family gathering is of the same political persuasion, talking about the election will be either redundant and unnecessary or the sort of commiserating that ruins the experience. So let’s just not even go there. Resolve to yourself not to mention political issues, even when it’s tempting or your wacky uncle sets you up for the perfect burn on that dissenting cousin of yours. Talk to your family ahead of time and remind them that the holidays are supposed to be pleasant, so let’s all work together to keep it that way by keeping politics out of the discussion. If someone misses or ignores the memo and starts off on a rant, try to change the subject. Politely remind them that this isn’t a good time or place to discuss it, but would they like another slice of Aunt Trudy’s chocolate pie? It really is delicious.
- Celebrate what makes you family. Whether or not your holiday cohorts are blood related, you choose to spend some of the most special times of the year with them, so there must be something that connects you. Be intentional to focus on that. Even if you seem to have nothing in common with your family anymore, reminisce on childhood memories or past holidays together. Remember that time the power went off and we all sang Christmas carols by candlelight? Grandma, tell us again about the time you accidentally left Uncle Bobby at the mall! Look at this funny picture from the ’80s – what were we even wearing?! Hopefully there is more that connects you than divides you, but if not, there’s always something. And if there’s not something… wait, why are you there again? 😉
- Remember we are all humans. Regardless of how passionate you are about your platforms or how stupid you think those who disagree are, the truth is everyone sitting at the table is a human. Their humanity is no greater or less than your own, therefore their voices — and votes — matter the same as well. For the sake of humanity (if nothing else, I mean really), respect the opinions of those around you, even when you disagree. And maybe you’ll respect those who agree with you a little more… but let’s not make that a public proclamation, mmkay? Most of my family differs from me in their political persuasions, and I’m cool with that. But you better believe I texted the few who agree with me before our gathering and let them know to expect from me an extra hug of solidarity – silent and free of political commentary, but meaningful just to us nonetheless.
- Listen. Okay, this one might not be for your big family get-together, but maybe you’ll have a chance to meet up with someone one-on-one before or after the event, send an e-mail, or schedule a Skype date. If you have family with whom you disagree, that doesn’t mean you have to avoid them. Surrounding ourselves with an echo chamber only insulates us from growth and understanding. If you have the opportunity and you both can keep it civil, I hope you will take the time to sincerely listen – not to talk back or prove a point or change their minds, but listen to understand. Because family — because humanity — is always worth it.