Don’t Dread That Upcoming Family Gathering

It’s beginning to look a lot like Thanksgiving and Christmas … the time of year when family members from near and far away gather, those we can’t wait to see…and others we wish we didn’t have to see. There, I said it. You know the ones I mean…the outspoken family member whose challenging opinions come to the forefront of every conversation, or the troubled souls who seem to carry their drama, chaos, and crisis into every occasion. Then we have those folks whose choices bring a black cloud over every gathering, often turning festive occasions into frustrating nightmares.

Let’s face it, folks, some of our family relationships (and members) are a tad dysfunctional. And sadly, there’s something about family gatherings that seems to bring out the worst in some people.

If you can relate, take heart! SANITY is possible, and it’s going to be my gift to you this holiday season. As the author of the Setting Boundaries ® book series from Harvest House Publishers, some people think I’m an expert at setting and keeping healthy boundaries. However, that’s not entirely accurate. In fact, I’m one of the most boundary-challenged people I know. The truth is, I’m often faced with situations and circumstances where my boundary setting ability is tested beyond belief. Times when I find myself repeating the Six-Steps to SANITY over and over in my mind as I make intentional choices in how to respond to a person who is pushing my buttons.

And therein lies the secret to your contribution toward a peaceful family gathering.

Make intentional choices.

We can and should set healthy boundaries with difficult people at the appropriate time. Yet too often, we ignore the need to do so because we don’t want to make waves, or we fear being misunderstood, or of not being a “good Christian,” and we simply wait passively, letting the chips fall where they may. Or, we respond emotionally and aggressively, protecting ourselves (and sometimes others) at all costs. Either way, we are then put in the position of having to continually put out fires instead of preventing them in the first place. If only we could change the difficult people in our life!

However, here’s the rub—we can’t change anyone other than ourselves. What we can do is to consciously and intentionally change how we respond to them.

During this season of peace and goodwill toward others, let’s remember that it is possible to be loving and firm at the same time. It is possible to agree to disagree and make the intentional choice not to engage in conflict. It is possible to have a family gathering that doesn’t end in chaos and conflict.

This season, instead of letting those difficult people get under your skin, make a vow beforehand to respond in an entirely different manner. Apply the S Step in SANITY and STOP responding in ways that fuel the fire. STOP allowing your buttons to be pushed and practice beforehand how you will respond to Aunt Sally’s nagging about your job, or to your sister’s constant enabling of her adult children, or to your Grandpas swearing.

This year confound the challenging people in your life with your new communication skills.

My prayer for you this season and throughout the New Year is that by using the principles of SANITY, your life will change…and just maybe the lives of others in your sphere will change, too. Decide this will be the year to live the kind of life God intended you to live, a life of love, joy, peace, and prosperity.

A life where you jump off the gerbil-wheel of insanity and embrace SANITY in all the difficult relationships in your life. ~

For more information on the 6-Steps to SANITY and on her books in the bestselling Setting Boundaries series, visit Allison’s website at

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