Raising kids. Keeping House. Choosing joy, every day.

Dealing with Difficult Family During the Holidays

This week on Facebook, I answered a readers question about dealing with miserable family members during the holiday. Her joy was zapped out of her and she was dreading the upcoming Christmas “festivities” because of that ONE person. This person was harsh, abrasive and rude to her (not abusive, just mean).

I gave her the advice, Don’t let a contentious person rule your spirit.

Then I shared how I deal with women who are always either moody, unpredictable, or ready for a fight. Every time I see them, I kindly say hello and ask how they are, get a quick reading of their mood, and then make a decision. If they are cold, short, abrasive, I smile and move on. If they are talkative or normal seeming, I will chat for a short minute and then move on.

(I only use this with a person who has a “lifestyle” of this behavior, NOT someone who is discouraged or upset one day. I will always try to encourage a person who is discouraged or deflated. This article is addressing how to treat a toxic person!)

Why don’t I try to minister to that person? Why don’t I try to help them? Because God says not to have a close friendship with someone who is angry, causes discord or who loves quarreling.

As normal people, you sometimes want to fix a person like this. But, the truth is that there are women who don’t want to be fixed. They have a strange desire for misery and discord. They seem to thrive if they have a feud going on with at least one person. They are all consumed in their lifestyle of aggressiveness, combativeness and contention.

People like this are either so self absorbed and selfish that they don’t know how miserable they come across, so if you smile and move on, they won’t even notice.

Or, people like this are master manipulators and are trying to control you by their moods and unpredictable behavior. They’d love to draw you into their latest feud. My husband Peter taught me long ago not to give an extra ounce of mental energy to these types of people.

You can’t change them. Only the Holy Spirit can do that, and until they decide to repent of this lifestyle, the natural consequence of their sin and bitterness is that people will keep them at an arms length distance and not want to be around them.

Like Anne Shirley told Katherine Brooke in Anne of Avonlea: “I refuse to be poisoned by your bitterness.”

If you have children, please don’t let this type of person rob you of your joy this  Christmas season! Especially if that person is a family member, and especially if that person claims to be a follower of Christ, it is easy dwell on WHY they are like that to you, and to allow ourselves to be disturbed and controlled by THEIR SINFUL BEHAVIOR.

1 Peter 3:4 tells us about two “spirit” qualities that God values and that he desires for us to “wear” (adorn yourself). After telling us not to worry so much about our outer appearance, our hair and jewelry, he tells us what to focus on:

“Let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

Gentle means not creating disturbances. It implies meekness, reasonableness and not causing harm.  Gentleness is the opposite of aggressiveness, contention, combativeness, quarreling.

Quiet in spirit means that you are not troubled by the disturbances caused by others. The opposite of quiet is rattled, perturbed, anxious, and fretful. A quiet spirit means that your peace is not dependent on outward circumstances , or on how others treat you but depends on your confidence in Christ.

I love Susanna Wesley’s prayer for peace:

Grant that it may not be in the power of any to rob me of the peace that results from a trust in Thee. Whenever crosses or troubles are met without, may all be well within.

This Christmas, if you are dreading difficult people, let me encourage you join generations of Christ followers who put on a gentle and quiet spirit. “For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves.” 1 Peter 3:5 Don’t be drawn into an argument. Don’t allow a contentious person to control your spirit. You can do this with God’s help! :)


How do you prepare to deal with difficult people? What other advice would you give this reader?