What comes to your mind when you think of the holidays? Family, good food, sports and relaxation top the list for most of us.

But in reality, the holidays can often bring increased stress and potential family conflict. Enter year 2020 –with an abundance of complex issues and viewpoints rife with potential disagreements—and the holidays come pre-loaded with stress.

So, how do we lower our stress level and help maintain peaceful relationships within our immediate and extended family this year?

Here are Five Principles that can help us to reflect and honor Jesus during the coming weeks:

1) Climb Mount Perspective

In other words, keep the big picture front and center.

Rise above your current circumstances and look at them from the “30,000 ft. level.”

Take a moment to think about whatever current conflict is potentially brewing. Imagine: how would you feel about that same issue if your loved one had suddenly passed away?

And now ask yourself: “Is this really worth splitting, dividing and even permanently harming my family relationships over?”

Why is it that a family tragedy often finally brings splintered family members back together?

Because perspective is finally achieved. Individuals are reminded about what really matters in life and in the end.

They finally see “the big picture” with greater clarity than ever before.

2) Take the High Road… by going down.

In other words, make the hard, better choice to be mature and humble.

Mature people choose to not hold grudges. They freely forgive (Colossians 3:13-14). Pride is swallowed and ego laid aside.

Proverbs 13:10 says, Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”

If you’ve known someone like this, they are not vindictive. They don’t try and “get back” at someone who has hurt them, instinctively taking revenge when given the chance.

Instead, mature people:

  • choose to love generously (1 Peter 1:22).
  • “Love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
  • make it a point to not hold on to jealousy or envy. (1 Corinthians 3:3)
  • choose to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “week with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
  • choose to do the right thing whether or not anyone else does.
  • treat others the way they want to be treated. (Luke 6:31)

3) Believe the Best

In other words, give your family “the benefit of the doubt.”

Choose to believe the best about their motives. Isn’t that one of the best gifts you’ve ever received?

Scripture reminds us that only God truly knows the deepest motives of a person’s heart. Therefore, we should leave the judgement of another person’s motives in God’s wise and loving hands.

“Therefore, do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5 NASB)

4) Be willing to ‘bend’

In other words, be willing to compromise and “flex” for the sake of unity among the whole.

Paul exhorts us in his letter to the Romans: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18).

Later in that same epistle, he writes: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for [insert your issue] the sake of food.”

In a similar vein, we need to take to heart what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers”(Matthew 5:9).

Isn’t it interesting that so many Christmas songs celebrate “peace on earth?”

Could I suggest that “peace on earth” begins first with pursuing peace with that relationship where we’ve been hurt and disagree so vehemently?

5) Keep many, if not most, of your opinions to yourself

In other words, let us “…be quick to listen and slow to speak.” (James 1:19)

Not everyone needs (nor wants) to hear our opinion about the latest controversial issue in the news cycle.

The Living Bible paraphrases Proverbs 10:19-20 this way:

“Don’t talk so much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be sensible and turn off the flow! When a good man speaks, he is worth listening to, but the words of fools are a dime a dozen.”

Being a person of “fewer words” is the path to wisdom.

Again, Proverbs saliently reminds us:

“Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent;

with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.”

(Proverbs 17:28 NLT)

Life is hard enough without the added complexities caused by speaking out when we should simply remain quiet.

To Conclude

How can we reduce the stress of the holidays, enjoy our families more and help move everyone toward greater peace and less conflict?

It takes work and commitment.

It takes mature, take-the-high-road, ego-setting-aside, secure-in-Jesus kind of people to get along well and work for the good of the whole.