Setting Realistic Expectations for the Holidays

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45

It’s raining here this morning. Not snowing as was predicted. These aren’t snow clouds, they’re rain clouds and expecting to see snow falling from them would be foolish. But that doesn’t mean they can’t change into snow clouds when the right conditions come together.

People aren’t that much different from clouds sometimes. What pours out of them is a reflection of what has been poured into them. The problem lies in when we expect something from them other than what they have been filled with—like expecting snow from a rain cloud.

I have a friend who dreads the family holidays. While she knows her family loves her, the manner in which they show it sometimes leaves her doubtful or occasionally hurt. At least, that’s how she used to receive their comments until she stepped back and considered what sort of things life—their own childhoods and experiences—had filled them with.

When she could see the negativity that had been spoken over them and to them by their own families, she was able to adjust her expectations and accept their comments with greater understanding.

That's no excuse for deliberate meanness or rudeness, but it might help us understand a person's words better when we seek to understand them better.

My friend had to see the cloud for what it was and stop expecting snow from a rain cloud.

This doesn’t mean she has given up on having a better relationship. She is not without hope that things could get better. Just like a cloud filled with moisture can turn into a gentle rain, a thunderstorm, or a snow flurry depending on the prevailing conditions, people have the same promise that change is possible. And how she responds to them will influence the conditions for change.

So she stays positive and sets boundaries. She no longer responds from a place of woundedness caused by their negativity. And instead of allowing herself to become frustrated, or even worse—take on a spirit of negativity herself—she chooses to step away when needed, guilt free.

Of course, it isn’t only family that that can challenge us this way. It may be neighbors, co-workers, committee members, or Sunday School class participants.

Surviving the stress of relationships like this, especially during the holidays, requires knowing when to step back. People will often, and mostly unintentionally, drain from others what they don’t have. Recognize when you are beginning to feel depleted and remove yourself. Even temporarily to a place of quiet refreshment can make a huge difference. Use this time to ask God to show you how He sees this person, and He will give you the perspective needed.

So load up the kids and the casserole dishes and head to that family gathering. Just don’t forget to take your umbrella.

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