Collateral Damage

trauma-3485235_640Photo by Anemone123. Courtesy of Pixabay.

When our defense department is planning an operation, many areas are evaluated. Among them are cost, number of assets needed, and last but not least, collateral damage. When we hear the words collateral damage spoken by the defense or intelligence communities, we know it is government-speak for casualties. Defense operations are not the only place where collateral damage happens.

This past week, I have heard several people talking about the approaching  holidays. When they share their dread and anxiety about inviting their relatives, they talk about what might happen if certain people come to their gatherings. Some of their relatives are known for sharing gossip, unforgiveness i.e. reminding them of past mistakes, and dropping emotional bombs when the extended family is present. When our relatives engage in this kind of behavior, they create a lot of collateral damage.  Rather than let this kind of behavior continue indefinitely, it might be worthwhile to spend time in prayer and contemplation in order to come up with ways to deal with our problem relatives in a more effective fashion. 

Are there practical ways we can deal with this kind of destructive behavior or do we even need to? First, we must ask ourselves if we need to invite them to the gathering at all? Perhaps if they were uninvited for a few holidays, they might begin to question themselves. When they call and ask why they were not invited, we can politely tell them we are downsizing our celebrations for the time being. If you think it is wise, you could share the reason they were not invited. 

Second, if they must be invited for the sake of family unity, how can we be proactive and prepare for their arrival? We can evaluate what seems to trigger their outbursts and be prepared to de-escalate and redirect the conversation when a hot topic is introduced. We can also evaluate the level of alcohol consumption that will be allowed. It might be wise to have an alcohol-free gathering if alcohol seems to loosen tongues that otherwise might be kept in check.

Third, we need to make sure we are not part of the problem. Do we have firm boundaries set up in our homes so that those invited know they are NOT allowed to criticize others when they are there? Can we stand up to the family bullies and let them know their behavior will not be tolerated? When we are setting up firm boundaries for the first time, it is only fair to let the offending parties know the rules several days in advance so that they can prepare themselves to be on their best behavior. If they then cross the lines, we can remind them of the “new rules” for family gatherings. 

The holidays can be brutal for some, depending on their relatives. We do not have to be victims and at the mercy of our relatives if they are toxic for us and our family.  Remember, our homes are not war zones and they do not have the right to cause collateral damage when they come to visit!

17 thoughts on “Collateral Damage

  1. Isn’t ironic that the holiday to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus causes so many people untold anguish, dread, and guilt? I’ll bet there must be hundreds of thousands of articles and blog posts about “surviving the holidays.”

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  2. What a timely post asking some much needed questions! The world has enough war zones, and we don’t need to add to them if they can be resolved otherwise. I’ve heard the “uninviting” solution has worked form some folks here in my town. Might be a much needed wake up call.

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    • Also, a dinner out works. You can say we are all eating out at a restaurant and then each person buys their own meal. You are able to limit the time you spend with your relatives and they are usually on their best behavior in public. There are many ways to take the stress out of the holidays. We just have to be creative! Thanks for the input! ❤

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  3. I think of Sarah Vowell’s funny essay in “The Partly-Cloudy Patriot” about the awkwardness of a family visit one Thanksgiving.

    I also remember Thanksgiving 2013, the last one my father, suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, spent at home. He ruined the day as he uttered one hateful, racist comment after another. I walked out and roamed sidewalks for a while. The disease stripped away the best of the man, leaving someone I had difficulty recognizing.

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  4. Fasting period in the Orthodox Church starts tomorrow. Today is fasting day too of Course. Wednesday. St. Philip the Apostle. Usually when fasted and praying more one gets to be more longsuffering towards others Logismoi, recognizing ones own better.

    Liked by 1 person

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