Ah, family. Sometimes this time of year is not full of joy and love and wonder. For some, it is a time when they pick up their bag of hurts and go from one family gathering to another trying desperately to keep the opening tightly shut. The weight of this burden of bitterness and resentment sometimes makes people cranky and sullen, sometimes quiet and reclusive. Are you the one who shows up a little late and leaves early? Are you the one who doesn’t really talk to anyone, sitting there with your plate of food burdened by past wounds?
Recently, the Lord spoke to me about my own bag of hurts. I hate carrying that bag. Why can’t I leave the bag at home? Why can’t I just throw it away? Why do I hold on to it and keep carrying it around when it is so heavy? Not only that, I keep adding to it, making my bag bigger. Maybe someday I might have the courage to open the bag and let all the hurts held inside wreak their havoc. But, if I did that, would that make the bag of hurt go away? Would I actually feel better? No, because the bag would still exist, the hurts would inflict more pain, and then I would carry a bag of guilt, too.
We need to forgive our family for past hurts.
The only way I can get rid of the bag is to give it to someone who has the power to make it disappear. Then, I can choose to refuse to get a new bag and fill it with new hurts. Forgiveness doesn’t mean grin and bear it. It doesn’t mean you have to visit with that person often and let them abuse you. It doesn’t mean now you are best friends again. It simply means that you aren’t going to carry around a burden of bitterness and resentment, that you aren’t going to “punish” them with your behavior. You live free of your heavy load and let God deal with the hurts that it held. But, what if it’s your parent or sibling?
See them less often.
I know we all feel obligated to visit with family, but maybe not as often as usual. Tell the truth. Say something like, “Well, the last time we got together, you didn’t seem to enjoy having us there. Your comments made me and my family uncomfortable and if that’s how you really feel, then we won’t come by as much.”
Confront the person at the point of offense.
Sometimes people don’t even realize they’re being hurtful and very often, they don’t remember what they said if you try to bring up it weeks later. This is an area of struggle for me because I’m not naturally a very confrontation person. I am more likely to be passive aggressive. I also suffer from mind swipe when I am thrown off guard by a hurtful comment. When I recover, the conversation has moved on and I have lost my opportunity to voice my pain. Off the hurt goes to my garbage bag.
Examine WHY you feel hurt.
Did the person actually say you were incapable, stupid, ignorant? Did they actually say that about your children? Do you feel hurt because you expect family to accept you, to be interested in your life, to help you and support you, to do life with you and well, they aren’t doing those things? Are you hurt because you expect certain things by virtue of blood relations and they are not meeting your expectations?
Sometimes when we examine our expectations and whether or not we even meet them ourselves, we find that we play a part in our own pain. Why do we think others owe us something just because we share common blood? If we don’t expect anything, we won’t be disappointed. Many times, when we are lacking in what we assume our family should provide, God provides for us through a surrogate. When my family did not support our choice to homeschool and shut down any discussion of it, God provided a mentor for me. She came alongside and encouraged me. God has provided several wise women to act as surrogate mothers for me—dear sisters in Christ—who will hear my heart cry and rally around me when I have a need.
Drop your garbage bag of hurts at the feet of Jesus and He will exchange your pain for peace. You don’t have to carry that load of bitterness and resentment anymore. Your family, your true family, is the Kingdom of God. Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas by trying some of these ideas.