Are Your Holidays Toxic?
By Leslie Vernick
You wish it were true. You’d love to have a nice family gathering on Christmas, a day where people celebrated Jesus’ birth and treated one another with kindness and love. But that’s not your reality. Your holidays are filled with toxic and unhealthy people.
Maybe in your house people will be using it as a day to overindulge in alcohol, making them less kind or more aggressive. Or your holidays will be filled with you serving and giving while others are taking and complaining. Or maybe your spouse or adult children are generally mean spirited, critical, mocking, or completely indifferent towards you. Christmas isn’t any different than any other day of the year, but you keep hoping that this year will be different.
Knowing ahead of time that your holidays may be filled with toxicity gives you time to prepare to take care of yourself. Proverbs says, “Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted.” Proverbs 2:12
How? If you knew ahead of time that you were heading into a toxic or unhealthy environment, what would you do to best protect yourself?
You might open the windows to let in some fresh air in. You might put on a protective suit or a mask, frequently wash your hands, or simply intentionally limit the time you stay in that environment. You don’t want to allow yourself to get infected with the other people’s toxicity and get sick.
In the same way, you can emotionally, mentally and spiritually prepare so that you will not be as negatively impacted. Here are a few things you can do.
Mentally: Stop taking someone’s treatment of you personally. How someone treats you says something about him or her, not you. Yes it hurts to have even a stranger be cruel towards you let alone a family member, but it reveals what’s going on in their heart not yours (Luke 6:45).
In addition, limit your exposure. If others are hostile or cruel, you can choose not to participate. You can stay home, leave early, not serve alcohol at your gathering, or not invite those people over. You are allowed to have boundaries, even on Christmas. If it’s your spouse, make other plans for yourself for part of the day instead of passively being a victim of spouse’s hostility. Get yourself a good novel to read, put your earphones on and head to your quiet place to get a break.
Emotionally: Accept the reality that you can’t control other people. Even Jesus could not control Judas or the Pharisees; not how they thought or felt about him or what they did. Observe rather than absorb the toxicity around you. Notice how unhealthy and deformed these people are (from the person God wants them to be) and don’t even know it. This may make you feel sad, but hopefully not as mad. Don't allow yourself to get provoked into reacting. When you start to feel yourself getting reactive, take a break to calm yourself down. Breathe, and leave if you need to.
Spiritually: If you’re a believer in Jesus, remember who you are in Christ. You are defined by Him, not by another fallible human being. You are a child of the most High God. You are a joint heir with Christ. You are seen by God as perfect, beautiful, and completely forgiven. Well before you attend your event, read Ephesians 6:10-18. Pray to God to help you be strong in Him and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God just like you would put on a HAZMAT suit if you were heading into a toxic environment. Consciously apply each piece. Picture yourself covered in grace and truth, protected by Almighty God against any and all lies and attacks from the evil one so that you can stand strong in the truth.
Remember, God did not intend his creation, including you, to thrive in toxic environments. It is not selfish to take good care of yourself; it is good stewardship of you.