It has been 10 years since I originally wrote this post, and it is as meaningful and lesson-bearing for me as the day I wrote it. So I have refreshed and reposted it in honor of a decade of meaningful, loving Christmas and Holiday celebrations.
Family conflict during the Holiday Season. Even mentioning it gets a rise out of most people when I talk about it. Ugh. No one wants family conflict. Everyone tries to avoid it. And yet, it happens. It happens often and for some families, is inevitable.
But conflict does not have to mean doom and gloom. In fact, I think conflict is necessary to have strong relationships. Conflict can strengthen relationship, not weaken it.
As the Season is upon us, my prayer and meditation is that everyone would have a Harmonious Holiday. To safeguard the harmony of your family Christmas, here are 5 Guidelines for Building Better Relationships.
These guidelines came from my life experience & observations as well as my 25+ year studies in yoga philosophy and my lifelong personal spiritual journey as a Christian. But no matter what your belief system, you can learn about yoga philosophy without betraying your faith and its spiritual roots. In fact, you may find that yoga helps you deepen your own spiritual roots, as it always has for me.
I wrote this post 10 years ago from the perspective of someone who is, by nature, a wannabe conflict resolver & family organizer. I just want my family to get along and have a good time, who doesn’t, right? It bothers me to no end to have unresolved conflict going on in my inner circle and family, and I often use Nonviolent Communication to get to the heart of the problem. Am I perfect at it? Heck no. But the key is I keep trying. I keep working at it. And I always, always want to be better, to learn, and to strengthen relationships with those I love and care about.
Long story short, here’s what I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, sometimes the easy way.
In times of need, you can be a Mercy Ship. A Mercy Ship saves others – you can be that proverbial ship that brings Peace and Harmony to your family’s Holiday.
Here’s out You Can Be A Mercy Ship in a time of need:
- Respond rather than react. Conflict will always rear its ugly head. Our goal in life is not to be conflict free, but rather deal gracefully with it when it arises. It is not the conflict that is important, it is how you react to it. So when your cousin brings their dog to your mother’s “hypoallergenic” home or your great aunt insists on giving gifts when you’ve emphatically stated no gifts – don’t panic. Breathe. Think. Choose your words carefully. And speak with kindness and compassion.
- Voice your expectations. Nothing ruins a Holiday quicker than having one (or multiple) unmet expectations. You thought you were spending Christmas with your extended family, but he thought you were staying home this year. Hello? An explosion like a toddler temper tantrum is in the making. Make sure you get your expectations on the table. All of them. If you want to get to the community potluck Christmas fair by 6 pm, say so. If he wants to stay home for Christmas, consider a compromise. But above all, make sure your family knows your expectations and intentions.
- Sow seeds so that you may reap a harvest. Many religions share this proverb. This Christmas, be the friend you want to have – to your family and your friends. In yoga, this is karma. In life, it is the “Golden Rule.” Put out the energy that you want to take in – without expecting anything in return.
- In order to transform, you must know what you believe. The great religions & philosohies of the world agree with the proverb: do not be like the chaff of the wheat, which is easily blown by the wind. What it implies is those who are easily blown by the wind are immature fence riders. In order to effect change, we must solidly know what we believe. In practical terms, if we want a family member to change their damaging or divisive behavior, then we must change our own damaging behavior. In fact, it may not be the family member’s behavior that needs changing – it might just be you that needs to change. Or as Ghandi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.” Analyze what fuels your own behavior – pride? self-preservation? generosity? sacrifice? Figure out what you may need to change – your behavior may be the what someone needs to change (or save!) their life or your family unity.
- “How Fragile We Are. How Fragile We Are.” In the lyrics of songwriter Sting, we must remember that we are all very delicate creatures. “We“, as U2’s Bono writes, might not be broken but we can see the cracks.” We are all on the edge of breaking at any moment. So this Season, be careful with one another.
About the Author:
Ginger has spent 20+ years helping people with chronic pain as a physical therapist, athletic trainer, and professional yoga therapist. Ginger is the author of Medical Therapeutic Yoga, now in its 4th foreign translation, founder of ProYogaTherapy Institute, codirector of Living Well Yoga in Healthcare, and most recently ran for State Senate in NC.
About the Photos: Christmas 2008, when I had 2 in diapers and one child with special needs coming up on 2 then unknown medical diagnoses that would rock my world, with a fledgling-self-employed-one-woman-show corporation to run during the new looming Great Recession, and no paid leave or fallback plan. Those were intense resilience-building, conflict resolution, and stress management testing days. But I survived to tell the tale, and added a third son, my doctorate, a new book in 5 languages, and a great more conflict resolving experiences to my resume!