The solution to holiday gathering anxiety: Stop making it about you.
Kind of harsh, right? But those words set me free 10 years ago. My husband and I were packing up the car to take our almost one-year old to my relatives for our Thanksgiving stay away from home. I had picked out the perfect outfits for my son, made sure they coordinated with the outfits we’d be wearing and then went through my lists over and over again to make sure I didn’t forget ANYTHING. I had a full-blown anxiety attack trying to put the bags in the car as fear washed over me: What if I forgot something and everyone thinks I’m a bad mom? What if he is fussy and they don’t think I’m doing a good job? Will their words of advice mean I’m missing the mark? I so badly needed to hear their accolades and feared words of disapproval, or possibly worse, silence where I could fill in the disapproving blanks in my mind.
My husband found me outside of the car trying to make myself breath. In halted breaths, with tears streaming down my face, I shared with him all of my worries. He held me close, helped me dry my tears and then gave me some perspective that changed my interactions with people forever. In the kindest possible way, he said, “Stop making it about you.”
He reminded me that, as a believer in Christ, my calling was to be a servant. I needed to stop focusing on what I could get from other people and focus on what I could give. It really didn’t matter if they thought I was the perfect mom or the worst mom, if my kid was perfectly put together or looked a mess. What mattered was how I served them so that they could see Jesus in me and want to get to know him more.
This is the root of family dysfunction, our personal agenda for self-elevation. James 4:1-2 tells us this, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”
We set ourselves and our family members up for failure when we expect them to fill a need within us that they can never meet. We get our feelings hurt when they don’t notice how hard we worked on the meal, when they show up late after we woke up so early to get everything ready, when they seemingly judge our choices with their side comments. Remember, every single person in your family is a sinner just like you with their own desires at work within them. They will never be able to meet your need for satisfaction, contentment and confidence. The only perfect person who can do that is Jesus. And Ephesians 1 reminds us that because of Jesus, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing, have been chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, lavished with grace and unconditionally loved and accepted.
Rest in the truth of who you are in Christ. Take the focus off of yourself and look to how you can serve. This is what Jesus did; he came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28). The King of Kings washed feet. He set the example for us to follow.
This holiday season look for opportunities to be a servant. Compliment someone’s décor, their wonderful meal, their great outfit. Ask them about their lives and keep asking genuine follow-up questions to get to know them better. Be the first one up from the table to clear the dishes, ask if anymore needs more to drink and rave about the pie they made.
You will find peace in your own heart as you rest in who you are in Christ and look for how you can be a blessing to others instead of how they can bless you.