Create a New Conversation This Holiday

Worried about getting together with family during the holidays? Are you like many families, where a little goes a long way, and too much together time leads to old resentments and hurts taking over?

Time to rethink your interactions.

Here’s a little personal experience I’d like to share. My family is, in my opinion, pretty exceptional in our interpersonal relations. We don’t have a lot of hurts to get over — if we did, we’ve pretty much worked them out over the years.

We are also intentional about getting together. My parents, siblings and I live in three different states, but we use surgeries, anniversaries and major birthdays as good reasons to get together. Bottom line, we really like one another.

Our latest gathering was at the invitation of our parents, who hosted us at a beautiful resort, telling us to leave our cash and credit cards at home. Because we all had other obligations on Thanksgiving day, we made it prior to Thanksgiving and spent our time making new memories.

That’s when the magic happened. We were settled around a large table at a beautiful restaurant, admiring the view and happily awaiting our food selections. My brother-in-law took command of the discussion, asking a loaded question: “What fruit of the Spirit do you think describes you best?”

We all stopped other trains of thought while we tried to remember all the fruits of the Spirit.

“Count me out for peace and joy,” I said, recognizing my tendency to be far too opinionated to be pleasant.

My sister-in-law was the first to ask for the fruits to be written down so we could absorb them visually. Here they are: Love, joy, peace, long-suffering/patience, gentleness, goodness/kindness, faith, meekness, self-control.

We picked on our dad first.

“Dad is long-suffering!” we chimed in, knowing that Mom would immediately call foul. The ensuing conversation established that his top fruit was love, followed by goodness and faith.

Next was Mom, and we decided hers was also love, then goodness and self-control. It was at that point that we said, “Wait — this is our family, so love is going to be top for all of us if we aren’t careful!” So love became a default for all, and we dug a little deeper.

My brother was goodness, meekness and self-control. His wife was joy, peace and goodness. My sister was self-control, goodness, gentleness. Her husband, the instigator of this “game,” was gentleness, goodness, and faith. My husband was joy, long-suffering, and faith. As for me, I was goodness, faith and self-control.

The conversation was interesting, especially for a group that usually is not particularly introspective. He then led it to the next level, asking us to explain why we thought each person’s top strength was top.

The stories that came next were priceless, even honoring. Sure, we joked — asking why humor wasn’t a fruit of the spirit, and just exactly how long-suffering did you have to be to get credit for it. But we also talked about how one goes out of his way to listen, and another gives us all delightful reactions to surprises, and another one plans special things to do for people.

The beauty was that we put into words how we really felt about each other. Things we would never have said, we said. The conversation was meaningful.

As I write this, it occurs to me that this worked because we already had a basis of love and understanding. For some families, probing the fruits of the Spirit might bring out resentment . . . after all, telling someone how you really feel about them could open dangerous doors.

However, if you do it in the true spirit of the fruits of the Spirit, what you uncover could be affirming and put a new twist on your holidays. If you want to grow in your relations, and grow in your appreciation for your family, consider this table game before you pull out the dominoes or retreat into your mobile phones.

It just may bear fruit for seasons to come.

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