We all know we can’t choose our family, we can only choose our friends…and sometimes our family members, including extended, blended, and in-laws, can be challenging to be around. With the holidays here, I know many of you will be spending it with people you love — and possibly people who you must endure!
A group of four middle-aged women are enjoying a lunch out together and catching up. The holidays are right around the corner and all of the women will be spending it with extended family. The conversation turns to in-laws:
Carol: “I just know my mother-in-law is going to complain about everything the whole time she’s here. She’s gonna complain that the kids are lazy, my cooking is too spicy, the bed is uncomfortable, and on and on.”
Krista: “Ugh, I hear you! We are going to Dave’s mother’s this year. The last time we were there, she kept getting out her little vacuum and vacuuming under the kids’ chairs WHILE THEY WERE STILL EATING! It’s ridiculous, she’s OCD on the cleaning. No one can relax in her house.”
Anna: “My brother-in-law, remember the one who thinks it’s funny to teach the kids how to belch and pass gas louder? He’s coming this year and I am so dreading it. He’s a total slob too. No telling what bad habits he’ll teach the kids this year.”
The conversation continued like this for several minutes, but Samantha, the fourth woman, just nodded and made sympathetic faces toward her friends. Finally, they stopped talking and turned to her.
They asked if her husband Brian’s parents were coming to visit like they usually did and she replied yes. Samantha’s friends knew her father-in-law, Tim, had pretty much ignored her and her children on previous visits. He tended to monopolize Brian’s time and attention.
Anna: “So are you ready to hand Brian over to Tim for the week? How do you stand it?”
Carol: “Yeah, does he even remember the kids’ names?”
Samantha: “Yes, it’s annoying but I try to remind myself of three things when he’s around.
“One, I’m so grateful Brian is NOT a chip off the block and inherited his mom’s sweet demeanor instead.
“Two, Tim won’t be around forever, so I’m grateful Brian gets to spend time with his dad before he’s gone.
“And three, I’m glad Brian has a dad who loves him so much. My dad left us when I was a kid and got remarried, so I hardly talk to him.”
Instead of focusing her energy on what was unpleasant about her father-in-law’s behavior, she found some things — gifts — to feel grateful for instead.
It’s easy to get caught up in finding things we don’t like about others, but it doesn’t take long until a lack of gratefulness toward the gift in others severely limits our ability to feel joy.
I want you to pause for a few moments during this busy holiday season.
Write down five (or more!) people in your life you can feel grateful for right now. And if you have a family member who can be difficult to be around, I want you to find one positive thing about that person!
For example, Krista, our friend whose brother-in-law teaches her kids bad habits, could be grateful he entertains her kids — and in all likelihood, her kids will look back on his visits when they’re older with humor and fondness.
The greatest gift you can give to yourself is to find the gifts in others. And once you practice finding the gifts in others, it will become a habit which will give your far more serenity and joy in your life.
I’ll leave you with one parting thought:
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” – William Arthur Ward
What positive thing did you find in someone difficult in your life? Let us know in the comments section below!