I’ve lately received a few emails from people looking for tips on how to remain in a healthy emotional space whilst visiting with family over the holidays. So I thought I’d revisit the below, which I first published about this time last year. It’s a way of looking at each of the Beatitudes delivered by Jesus in his famous Sermon on the Mount, and finding there wisdom anyone can use to make visiting their family over the holidays something they can not endure, but greatly enjoy.
So here we go:
Blessed are the poor in spirit. We tend to go into family gatherings pretty keyed up. We feel intense, alert, super-sensitive to everything everybody says and does. But that’s the opposite of being “poor in spirit”; that’s being too rich in spirit. What that’s about, at its core, is protection of your ego. But instead of defending it, this is a time to surrender your ego. Before stepping into your family gathering, take a minute, take a deep breath or two, and consciously fill yourself with the Holy Spirit. That will replace your grubby, score-keeping ego spirit with the very spirit of Jesus. And if there’s one thing Jesus showed us, it’s that it’s all about extending the spirit of God to others, and wanting nothing for yourself.
Blessed are those who mourn. Again, this is about the Holy Spirit filling you with the understanding that everything of this world—including your family—is temporary. Centering yourself within that truth will give you the clarity to appreciate that every member of your family is just like everyone else in the world: in need of constant, absolute, and perfect love. That’s a love they cannot find this side of heaven. And that no one ever gets the complete, unbroken love they were born craving does inform the universal human experience with a very great sadness. Know that. Be with that. Let the truth of the universal unrequited love flow through you. Allow it to allow you to treat the members of your family not as people with whom you share a specific, tangled history, but rather as co-travelers through this long, hard veil of tears.
Blessed are the meek. Don’t fight. Don’t provoke. Don’t defend. Don’t insist that your thoughts and opinions are given their full due. Let every last bit of all that go. Allow others in your family to go before you. Let them have the floor. Let them be right, strong, firm, and clear in whatever way it’s important for them to be so. Support them in an unqualified way. Instead of saying the words that your ego-self is first inclined to say, say instead (within reason, of course) what you know would most please them to hear. If Jesus can sacrifice his life in order for you to be reconciled with God, you can surely sacrifice a bit of yourself to promote harmony within your family—especially during the Christmas season.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Always look to, highlight, emphasize, and celebrate what’s good and right with whatever’s going at the moment. Through the guiding grace of the Holy Spirit, align yourself with what’s right, true, just, forgiving. The love of God in your heart will unerringly carry you to the place where God is most fully manifested. Maybe that manifestation will be your awareness of hard your mother has always worked. Maybe it will be in the physical grace with which your father or brother moves. Maybe it will be in the musical sound of your sister’s laugh. Whatever and wherever it is, find it. There’s God! Be with Him—and through Him, with them.
Blessed are the merciful. No mystery here. Forgive, forgive, forgive till it hurts. Why shouldn’t you? You’re no angel. None of us is. In our lives we’ve all done more wrong things than there are numbers to count. Forgive everyone in your family, straight up. When it comes to our proper relationship to our family members, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do,” should be tattooed on our hearts. They didn’t know. They couldn’t. None of us can. Our only hope is to mercifully forgive each other, the way Christ mercifully forgave all of us. Give it up. You resentments aren’t doing you any good anyway. Open your arms wide, and drop that dead weight.
Blessed are the pure in heart. Don’t let foul emotional intent find its target within you. If one of your family members says or does something that is hurtful to you, internally step aside, and let the arrow of that pointed negativity zip right past you—and then turn your attention right back to the Holy Spirit. Don’t let the poison of the world—as manifested through your family—sully the pure God within you. God really is love; and love really is a force so powerfully pure that it deflects, absorbs, changes and absolves all which tries to counter it. Let your heart be the burning crucible wherein that transformative process is never wanes.
Blessed are the peacemakers. Show that the peace of the Lord is upon you by becoming the means by which members of your family find peace between themselves. You can’t force reconciliations to occur, of course. But if you keep your loving heart attuned to it, you will certainly find among your family members constant little revelations that they (like all people) desire to exist in harmony with those nearest them. Do what you can to facilitate that blessed process. When friction occurs, smooth it over; when tensions mount, help them dissipate. Don’t be afraid to be bold about it, either—to suggest, for instance, why and how one member of your family might be comfortable forgiving another for some specific past offense. Just put it to them; ask them to forgive. In this lead by example: share with a member of your family why you’re so pleased to take full responsibility for something that in the past went wrong between you and them. So what if it’s not really that cut-and-dried? It’s close enough. Let go of the wrong that tries to claim you as its own. Make peace.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness. Being truly right and loving can be truly lonely. So what? You don’t serve God because it feels good, or because of the great personal or emotional rewards that come with sacrifice. You serve him because you know it’s the right thing to do. And sometimes serving God hurts. And it’s fair that it should: a sacrifice that feels good, after all, is no sacrifice at all. That you will be persecuted as a result of aligning yourself with righteousness isn’t in question. The question is whether or not you can continue to feel blessed in the midst of that persecution. And the quickest, surest way to do that is to remember how terribly Christ was treated. The simple, healing, and rejuvenating truth is that we are most like Christ when we are most being persecuted. So don’t worry if your family, for example, derides your belief in God. Just smile—and laugh, even, as you acknowledge the validity of how your relationship with God must look to them. Just remain with the Lord, and, like day follows night, he will lead you back to calm waters.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Boom. There it is.