Keeping the peace at Christmas

By Jason Frenn Is there someone in your family who can ruin your entire day with a single word? Maybe … Continued

By Jason Frenn

Is there someone in your family who can ruin your entire day with a single word? Maybe your sister sees every pound you’ve gained this past year. Perhaps your crazy uncle flies off the handle at the mention of the latest political whim. Maybe your in-laws help you ‘parent’ your children. The heart of the conflict isn’t a personality clash though. Most likely, that person said or did something long ago that inflicted pain.

The Christmas season is the only time of the year when people who don’t necessarily like each other decide to converge on a very small living space and spend too much time with too many high expectations. And although we do this year after year, we somehow convince ourselves that this year will be different. Is there something you can do to change the outcome? Absolutely!

Christ felt that one of the most powerful things we can do is forgive. He felt it was so important that he made it a part of the Lord’s Prayer. Why? Because it’s the only anecdote for the sickness of bitterness. He also understood the long-term consequences for those of us who decide to harbor bitterness. There are three things that lack of forgiveness does to destroy our lives and families.

First, bitterness is like a venom we inject into our own veins with the hope of killing someone else, but it winds up destroying us instead. Harboring bitterness always does more damage to us than to the people we hold in contempt. Like a cancerous tumor that eats away at vital organs, if left unattended, bitterness and anger consume our soul.

Next, it’s contagious and passes from one person to another. We pick it up from our parents, coworkers, friends, family, and other influential people. And if we can pick it up, we can inadvertently spread it to those we love including our children.

Third, bitterness is binding. It keeps us firmly bonded to those who have offended us until the day we make a choice to release them. People say that time heals everything. Not so! We experience healing from bitterness only when we make a conscious choice to be free. Have you ever been at a family reunion where someone there has been through a divorce? If you ask that person about his or her ex, you’ll see just how much healing has come as a result of time.

Lack of forgiveness destroys marriages. It destroys families, friendships, neighborhoods, cities, states, and even nations. I am convinced that one of the great tragedies in history is the lack of forgiveness that exists between Jews and Muslims. The turmoil we see today stems from an unresolved conflict 4,000 years ago that originated between Sarah and Hagar who passed it onto their children and the generations that followed. True peace in the Middle East can only come when Jews and Muslims mutually and genuinely say, “I forgive you.”

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we continue to put ourselves in harm’s way. It doesn’t mean that we continue to be victims of abuse, violence, or neglect. It simply means that we choose to release the bitterness that keeps us in bondage and emotionally tied to those who have offended us. When we forgive others, ourselves, and yes, even God, then we can discover one of the greatest gifts God gives us through His Son. That’s when true freedom comes.

You’re probably asking, “How do I forgive someone who doesn’t seek my pardon?” Forgiveness isn’t about letting other people off the hook. It’s about letting us off the hook. So when the family begins to gather in the weeks to come, remember, forgiveness is not an emotion. It’s a choice. When we choose to forgive, it releases us from those who we have given the power to keep us in contempt.

So my advice to you is this. The next time those feelings rise to the surface when you’re around someone who has rubbed you the wrong way, repeat the words of the Lord, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Jason Frenn is the author of “Power to Reinvent Yourself: How to Break the Destructive Patterns in Your Life.”

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  • rachellarson89

    This is a great article to read especially with Christmas only 5 days away! Way to go JASON! :)

  • lindahill46

    Such a great article and truth. Forgiveness is the best thing anyone can do to have peace and good health. Your book has been a huge stepping stone in my life to choosing good patterns and how to get unstuck in destructive way that were learned as a child. Thank you for writing this book you have truly blessed my life.Linda

  • debbon66

    Another wonderful article by Jason Frenn! I spent over 20 years living with bitterness and unforgiveness toward my father. I tried to forgive him and I thought I had done what I needed to do, but it was only recently that I discovered I was still holding on to bitterness. Jason’s book has been a huge blessing in my life, I’ve learned so many life changing principles and I am so grateful that learning how to forgive is one of them.I was able to completely forgive my father just months before he passed away unexpectedly. I can’t get back the years that were wasted, but I can live with myself knowing I made the right choice and that I was able to tell my father that I loved him before he died.I hope others will take the advice from this article and make that choice to forgive–do it and experience incredible freedom.

  • LinaB

    I sooooooo love my family and love getting together with them… now :) But I remember the larger gatherings, as I was growing up, and watching and trying to understand all the drama.Gonna pass this on via emails and Facebook, right now. Wish I’d had Jason around, long ago, to share his insight at past family events ;)Thanks Jason,

  • TheProf-

    Another excellent article by an excellent author. As someone who has lectured & counseled for years — I have observed first hand the power of forgiveness and the destructive results of not leaving negative emotions behind. Great advice at an important season!