Swords into Plowshares: How to Deal with Family Friction During the Holidays

Holiday time means family time. And family time can sometimes mean friction time. We come together with intentions of good will, but as soon as someone says something we disagree with, or does something that offends us, we can be quick to pull out our swords and spears.

The great prophet Isaiah speaks of people that “…will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” (Isaiah 2:4) Not an easy thing to do when your mother-in-law is once again complaining about how your kids don’t behave and is giving you tons of advice on how to raise them right, or Cousin Walter is pushing his “warped” philosophical ideas down your throat. But we are called to be the people who will hammer our swords into plowshares.

Here are some tips on how to turn that spear you want to hurl into a peaceful pruning hook.

Bite Your Tongue

It is so tempting to spew ugly words at your mother-in-law or tell Cousin Walter just how wrong you think his philosophical beliefs are. But literally sinking a tooth into your tongue (without drawing blood) can be a quick and easy way to keep yourself from reacting to the emotions bubbling inside you that will only add more friction to the family gathering.  Adding a genuine smile while you bite your tongue is an added plus, but certainly not necessary. Sometimes just swallowing those biter words you want to fling from your mouth is challenging enough.

Say a Prayer

This is definitely the most important of all the tips listed! While you feel that tooth cutting into your tongue, it is a great time to say a silent prayer, NOT a prayer like Lord, this family you put me in is driving me crazy…fix them! A better option might be God come to my assistance, Lord make haste to help me, or Jesus help me to love like you.

Prayer is something you might need to return to several times through the family gathering. Don’t worry too much about what prayer you should say. Just humbly turn to the Lord with a simple prayer-plea of one, single, word such as Help!

Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative

Now that you have bitten your tongue and said a prayer, it is much easier to carry out these final two tips. It’s time to focus on the positive, not the negative.

Your mother-in-law and Cousin Walter have some great qualities. Think of that delicious chocolate cake your mother-in-law always makes for your birthday or how she drops everything she’s doing to go pick up the kids from school when you’re running late at work. Recall the time Cousin Walter came and rescued you when your car battery was dead or how his impersonations make you roll over laughing.

When you think of all the positive things about your family members instead of the negative, it’s pretty hard to get upset with them.

Do a Kind Deed

This is probably the hardest one. But remember that prayer that you said and that all things are possible with God. If you repeat that Help! prayer, he will give you ideas regarding kind deeds to do.

You could put your arm around your mother-in-law and give her a compliment, such as; “Your chocolate cake is always so moist and rich. I am sooo looking forward to enjoying a piece of it after our meal.” Or ask Cousin Walter if you can refill his glass of tea while you are up. Doing something nice for someone who is getting on your nerves can sure deflate the tension in the room.

And amazingly, it hammers those sharp spears and swords into peaceful pruning hooks and plowshares!

Rose of Sharon is a lover of her Lord and a cradle Catholic. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, and elementary school PE teacher. She and her husband are catechists for the sacraments of First Communion and Holy Matrimony. She is passionate about her Catholic faith, children’s literature, and playing outside in God's beautiful creation.