Many people dread the holidays because of encounters with family members. Although meeting with close and extended family is a normal part of the Christmas season, sometimes people make inconsiderate or disrespectful comments that quickly dampen a festive atmosphere.
We cannot control the statements of others, but we can show them the respect we desire by being mindful of what we say to family members during the holidays.
In the following article, I have composed a list of suggested topics to avoid at gatherings. As believers, we do not want to offend others unnecessarily, say hurtful comments, or cause people to stumble.
We are wise to carefully consider our words and practice love toward others, treating others the way we would want to be treated (Luke 6:31).
1. ’You Look Different’
At events and gatherings, people commonly hear others talking about weight and diets. However, talking about someone’s appearance, weight, or health can hurt them and cause unnecessary damage.
We may not know what another person is going through if they are struggling with an eating disorder or other health issues.
If we are meeting with family, then we should focus on the individual people we encounter, not their appearance. God looks at a person’s heart, not what they look like on the outside (1 Samuel 16:7).
Furthermore, a person’s value is not based on weight, appearance, or health. All people have value since we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27).
Let us not act shallowly or without regard for the feelings of others. When we talk to our family during the holidays, we should avoid discussing a person’s weight or outward appearance.
We do not know or fully understand another person’s pain or struggle. Thus, we are wise to control our speech and act lovingly toward others.
2. ‘Is That What You Are Eating?’
Something I have never understood is the obsession with food choices and serving sizes during the holiday season. Many people, especially women, obsess over what they can and cannot eat.
Often these comments reveal disordered eating patterns or insecurities, which need to be addressed by a professional counselor or therapist.
However, this obsession with serving sizes and food choices at family gatherings sadly miss the point of the festive occasion.
Feasts were common in the Old Testament, where people celebrated and worshiped God (Leviticus 23:4-44). Also, Jesus commonly enjoyed spending time with others during meals (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 2:13-17).
In our diet-crazed society, we often forget that God’s gift of food can and should be enjoyed (Psalm 136:25; Ecclesiastes 9:7; James 1:17).
There is nothing wrong or sinful with eating the delicious food found at holiday gatherings. In fact, we can do so in celebration of the Lord and as a way to fellowship with others.
Thus, we should not comment on what other people put on their plates during festivities. Instead of making statements about food, we should give thanks for the opportunity to spend time with others around a meal, just as Jesus did with His disciples.
3‘I’m Surprised You Aren’t Married Yet’
Single individuals often dread the holidays because family members may talk about relationships and marital status. Asking a single person why they are not married yet can induce feelings of insecurity, sadness, or anger.
Some individuals may be looking intently for a suitable match but have experienced disappointments. Others may feel content in their singleness to serve the Lord.
Despite common assumptions, people have worth regardless of being married or single. When we make statements about someone not being married, then we are conveying to the other person that they have done something wrong by being single.
Such a comment shows that we have a lot to learn about Scripture and about loving others with our words.
We are wise not to presume about another person’s situation. If another person wants to talk about their desire or lack of desire to get married, then they can start that conversation.
However, we should focus on encouraging others and building them up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Making someone feel inferior is neither loving nor Christlike.
4. ‘When Are You Going to Have Kids?’
In conversations with married couples, we might feel tempted to ask them when they are going to have children.
We might have good intentions in asking this question, but we must consider their situation. Some couples struggle with infertility. Thus, asking them about children is not a wise or loving choice.
Other people who are married may have chosen to wait to have children. Some couples may also choose not to have children because of health issues, to spend their energy serving God, or for another personal reason.
Our close and extended family may share these thoughts and struggles with us, but we should avoid asking about their plans for children so as not to cause harm or misunderstanding.
The Bible reminds us that “no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Blurting out our questions thoughtlessly or saying the first thing that pops into our minds is not the best choice.
Instead, we need to think about our words before saying them. By exercising discernment when talking about a sensitive subject, such as having children, we obey Scripture and seek the good of others (1 Corinthians 10:24).
5. ‘Cheer Up, It’s Christmas!’
A final statement that I recommend not saying to family members during the holidays is “cheer up.” Numerous people anticipate Christmas and cannot imagine that others are not equally as cheerful and excited. While the holidays are a time of joy for many people, for others, it can be a season of pain and loss.
If someone in the family recently passed away, we should not expect other members to act cheerfully during the holidays. The sorrow of losing a loved one is often intensified during Thanksgiving and Christmas because these are times that we normally would spend with family.
Even if a loved one passed away years ago, a person can continue to struggle with the sorrow and emptiness of grief.
While we might feel uncomfortable talking to a bereaved individual during a holiday gathering, we need to remember that they are hurting. We can love that person where they are, acknowledging their pain.
The absence of a loved one during these events is hard to cope with, as I know from experience. Ever since my mother passed away in 2016, the holiday season has not been the same, and it never will be.
I have found that encouragement and support from others are more helpful during holiday gatherings than having people tell me to “cheer up” or “be happy.”
Furthermore, offering loving words to our family members reflects the essence of the holiday season. Jesus entered a world filled with pain and suffering to bring hope.
He brought light to a dark world (Matthew 4:16; John 1:4-5). Let us seek to spread that hope to our close and extended family during the holiday season.
Why Does This Matter?
Thoughtless words, comments, and questions can hurt others. Even if we think our statements are well-meaning, we need to consider how our family will receive our words.
Since we are called to love others as God loves us, then we must think carefully about what we say to others (Mark 12:30-31). By avoiding unhelpful and hurtful comments, we can reflect Christ to our family during holiday gatherings.