Dealing with People who Disappoint
It is 100% certain that you will be dealing with people who have disappointed you during this Christmas season (even if you are spending it alone). When we are around people who have disappointed us in one way or the other, a myriad of emotions threaten to overwhelm us. Particularly if those who have hurt us are in our inner circle. We see that person at the table or on the couch, the emotional dam breaks loose and we are suddenly flooded by a cacophony thoughts and feelings. We have no control over these impulses. What we can control is what we do with them.
For me, there are but three options for dealing with unavoidable holiday people who have disappointed you (or continue to disappoint you).
1) We can declare them pariahs, do our very best to avoid them and treat them rudely. This is clearly an option and in some cases (like abuse), it may be the right option but not usually.
2) We can be polite but choose not to engage beyond that point. This is really not a bad strategy if you are really hurting but it is normally a temporary one. This strategy is best used in the immediate aftermath of disappointment, when we have not yet sorted out our own feelings, must less determined how we will engage or not engage the person who has hurt us.
3) We can forgive them and choose to renegotiate the relationship. Forgiveness does not let the person who hurt you off the hook, it lets you off the hook of being vengeful and bitter. On the other hand, we can’t simply act like things are all back to “normal.” A conversation to negotiate the relationship on the other side of disappointment is necessary but don’t have it on Christmas Day. The right conversation held at the wrong time or before you are emotionally ready to have it, is always the wrong conversation.
Forgiveness is not an easy option, but it is the only Christian one. And if you are wondering how you can forgive those who have sinned against you, keep in mind that pesky petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”
You don’t have to get things all figured out this Christmas season, but a determination to sort out your stuff, emotionally plan ahead and get things headed in the right direction is a great gift no matter how you open it.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois