5 Ways to Love “Difficult People” at Christmas

The holidays often bring us together with family and friends in social settings that can be unpredictable and emotionally charged. Approaching these times of coming together can be filled with exciting anticipation, or anxious trepidation depending on the particular relationships. Think of the three most difficult people for you to love that you will see this holiday season. What would it look like to love those people with God’s unconditional love?

Here are 5 ways to love like Jesus:

  1. Start with a warm greeting ~ The initial coming together with a difficult person can set the stage for the rest of the event. A simple but impacting way that you can show love is to greet everyone (including the difficult people) in a manner that makes them feel good. Let others experience your joy.
  2. Lower your expectations ~ Unmet expectations are often the source of contention with people we have difficulty loving. We don’t agree with their behavior or life choices. We hold out hope that over time they will change, and yet, this seldom happens. We continue being disappointed and our frustration shows. Sometimes, the most loving thing we can do is to lower our expectations and accept them just as they are.  Recognize that Jesus loves us just as we are…faults and all. We should love others in the same way.
  3. Be the hero ~ Sometimes we get stuck in a rut with certain family members. We accept a challenging relationship as being “just as good as it is ever going to get.” However, if one person would just begin to respond in a slightly different way for a period of time, the relationship might begin to flourish. Jesus gave us the example of being a humble servant when he washed the Apostles’ feet. This included washing Judas’s feet even though Jesus knew he was about to betray Him. No matter what the other person says or does, choose to take the “high road” and respond like Jesus.
  4. Take the focus off yourself ~ If Jesus, being God, took on the role of a humble servant, why would we think we should live our lives for ourselves? We need to change our motivation from being self-centered and how things are affecting us, to “How can I honor God?” We need to respond with sacrificial love. We cannot control other people’s actions or responses. We can only control our own. Rather than making our interactions between us and the other person, we need to make our responses honoring to God. Bottom line: love the Lord your God with all your heart by loving your family and friends.
  5. Show a united front ~Whether you are dealing with extended family or friends, you always want to show a united front as husband and wife. Difficult relationships can cause stress between husbands and wives. Before you attend a challenging social setting, discuss your strategy for the event. Pray together. Draw on the strength of the Holy Spirit to give you a gentle, united attitude toward your family and friends. Do not allow challenging relationships to tear you apart. Instead, allow God to use them to strengthen your relationship as a couple.

There is perhaps no greater time than Christmas for a husband and wife to show the love of Jesus to their family and friends. I remember hearing of a family who had a sign as you entered their home that read: “Love Spoken Here.” How beautiful it would be if we all had that sign imprinted on our hearts, and we spoke love continuously to one another, in the good times and the bad.

LOVE…it is the greatest gift you can give to Jesus for his birthday!