“I was sitting across from my cousin who just started his med. school residency, and next to my newly engaged sister, thinking about how my latest accomplishment was finishing an entire box of mac-n-cheese while clicking Yes I’m still watching Grey’s Anatomy.”
“I’ve got to start emotionally preparing myself for the annual, why are you still single questions”
“It’s the baby interrogation for me!”
“What do we want? Grandkids! When do we want em? Now!”
My friends and I giggled as we joked about the dining table conversations we’ve grown to expect over the holidays. You know the ones: your cousins share their latest accomplishments, the aunts raise their eyebrows all in-synch while chiming “So when are you having kids,” and the perpetually singles dodge every mention of new dating apps. While we all roll our eyes and chuckle at this common experience, I think there’s a sting that we’d all like to avoid.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…that often brings with it a hinge of pressure that seems to sit heavier and heavier, as you grow older. As the years go by, you can’t help but to compare your life to those of your loved ones, hoping this year you’ll have something noteworthy to share- that this year grandma will be bragging about you.
Some of us internalize this comparison, taking on an identity of “family fav” or “the late bloomer” while maintaining a chipper outer appearance to mask a wound of insecurity, and an unraveling of contentment.
Others see it as a challenge, striving for the approval and applause of those who mean the most to us- loudly proclaiming our latest success, begging for affirmation like the family dog snooping for crumbs.
Regardless of which camp you belong to, wouldn’t you agree that we’d all just like a little affirmation? No one wants to feel behind and everyone wants to feel accepted.
But what if we changed our approach? What if we ditched the self-brag and left behind competition between cousins? What if instead of measuring UP to one another, we measured OUT big helpings of love and humility? How would that change your dining table dynamics?
When Jesus walked the earth, he taught his followers a revolutionary way to live. He taught that the first will be last and the last will be first (Matthew 19:30). He literally flips the tables on how to come out on top in the world and what true success looks like. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, he says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been conditioned to believe that meek is a bad characteristic. But biblically, that isn’t so. The Crossway ESV Study Bible describes meek as “ those who do not assert themselves over others in order to further their own agendas in their own strength.” In other words, a meek person doesn’t compete with the man across the table from him. A meek lady knows her identity in Christ, plants herself there in humility, and invites others to be their best selves. She isn’t intimidated by another person’s success, but celebrates the goodness of the Lord as she see’s it in others.
This Christmas, I want to challenge you to approach the dining room table talk with meekness, humility, grace, and love.
Here are 5 tips to dish out love and ditch the brag.
- Shift The Spotlight. We are so quick to talk about ourselves. We openly spill all that is share worthy- not sparing any details of our most exciting moments. We are quick to speak and very slow to listen. Instead of bringing every conversation back to yourself this year, ask questions.
Try: Tell me what is new in your life? How is your job going? I can’t wait to hear what you’ve been up to.
- Celebrate Others. We’re really good at celebrating ourselves, but not so much at celebrating others. Whether you have something to celebrate or not, perhaps it is someone else’s year to be in the limelight. Instead of lamenting what you don’t have, celebrate what your family member does have. This can be difficult- especially if they’re living out the very circumstance you long for. But imagine for a moment what it must be like to be in their shoes. Celebrate God’s generosity and goodness to your family. It’s nearly impossible to praise God and be bitter simultaneously – speaking from experience.
Try: I love that God has provided you with that blessing. Wow, praise God for that! It is so neat to see what is happening in your life. I can imagine how happy you must be. I’m happy for you!
- Give Credit Where Credit Is Due. When given the opportunity to share about what is happening in your life, use this as a moment to point a florescent, neon sign straight to the Giver of Good Gifts. When we act as the heroes of our own story, we leave still wanting more: more praise, more wins, more good things. When we remember our place, and the Father who provides for us, we feel increasingly thankful for His grace. “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.” James 1:17
Try: God has been so generous to me. I’m so thankful and blessed. Yeah, I worked really hard, but God definitely provided everything I needed.
- Remember Your True Identity. When reputations and bragging rights are on the line, it’s easy to lose sight of your real home and true identity. But this place is not your permanent home. It’s a stop on the way to your real residency- the one where you inherit your place in the kingdom of God. You are not Jenna, Best Student Of The Clark Family. You’re not Sam, The Family Disappointment. You’re not Alyssa, Child Of A Damaged Family. While those might be pieces of your story- they are not your identity. You are a child of the one true King, resident of the eternal heavens, and heir of the kingdom of God. Live in that identity and you’ll be less disappointed by mishaps, misjudgments, and measuring up.
Try: Yeah, I’m bummed I didn’t get the job but I know God has a plan for me. Sure, I wish things would’ve worked out with that guy, and my heart is still hurting; I’m trying not to find my identity in relationships though, so I’m not that concerned about [latest dating app]. Thanks for asking though.
- Prepare You Heart. If you’re reading this, and you haven’t sat down to the dining room table yet, take some time to prepare for that day! You most likely know what kind of questions you might get asked, and which siblings you might feel inferior to. As you pack your toiletries, bring along some simple answers to those hard questions. Prepare some questions of your own that shed the spotlight on others. And pray. Ask the Lord to give you grace and patience, as fragile spots might get pushed.
Try: Heavenly Father, Help me to give You glory this holiday season. Give me words that are sweet to Your ears, that build others up, and worship Your name. Humble my heart, that it would be grateful. Help me to celebrate others above myself and remove any entitlement within my heart. Remind me of who I am in You. Let Your image be sweeter to me than any identity I could create for myself in this world. Help me to lay my life down in love for those around me, just as You did for me on the cross. In your beautiful, powerful, redemptive name, Jesus. Amen.
I hope these have been some helpful tips and ideas to remember.
If you give others the spotlight, King Jesus the glory; dish out love and laughter and grace, and remember your place; I’m confident you’ll get up from the table feeling fuller than ever.
Merry Christmas! With Love & Freedom,