Many years ago, when the holiday season arrived and certain relatives were due to make their annual appearance, I felt a sense of increasing dread. Far too many of us suffer from the pain of family get-togethers, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Somehow we allow the expectations and demands of our family members to be the source of so much unhappiness and stress, when what we really want is to be authentically ourselves and at peace with our relatives. The conflict seems too often to be a choice between being authentic, which means no peace with certain relatives, or having peace at the price of being inauthentic. Being peaceful and authentic can define your relationship with your relatives. First, though, you may have to assess your relationship with the closest relative of all—you.
In order to change the nature of family relationships, you’ll have to change your mind about them and consider that you are the source of the anguish in your relationships, rather than the individual whom you’ve pegged as the most outrageous, the most despicable, or the most infuriating. Over the years, all of these individuals have been treating you exactly as you’ve allowed them to with your reactions and behaviors. This can miraculously change when you choose to be at peace with everyone in your life—most particularly, your relatives.
If the focus of your inner dialogue about your family members is on what they’re doing that’s wrong, then that’s precisely how your relationship with them will be experienced. If your inner speech centers on what’s annoying about them, that’s what you’ll notice. But if you’re thinking, I am authentic and peaceful with this relative, then that’s what you’ll experience—even if that relative continues to be exactly the way he or she has always been.
The key to having peace in all your family relationships is forgiveness. Your relatives are simply doing what they’ve been taught to do over a lifetime, and the lifetimes of many of their ancestors. Shower them with understanding and forgiveness from your heart. Rather than being in a state of non-peace concerning any family members, say a prayer of gratitude for their presence in your life and all that they have come to teach you.
The likelihood is great that you’ll see dramatic changes in your relatives as you teach them with your own persona how you intend to be treated. But if they don’t change, and if they continue their nonpeaceful ways, let go of your need to see them transformed. It all works in divine order, and the saying Let go and let God guarantees your own peace, and you dramatically increase the odds of helping others to do the same.