Awkward Holiday Gatherings?

I read a very insightful book by Terry Hargrave, Families and Forgiveness: Healing Wounds in the Intergenerational Family (New York:Brunner/Mazel Publishers, 1994). Very insightful and on point with the philosophy held by this website.
It is particularly helpful to help us understand why so often our high romantic expectations of wonderful family Holiday gatherings don’t materialize. Hargrave would say that affected families have lost interpersonal ‘trustworthiness’.
When people engage in relationships that have a balanced give-and-take between relational entitlements and obligations, this innate sense of justice is satisfied. Balance between give and take over a period of time produces a sense of trustworthiness in the relationship. At its basic foundation, a trusting relationship provides security that individuals will receive what they deserve in the relationship without having to threaten, manipulate, or retaliate and the freedom to contribute and given the relationship without fear or apprehension.(24)
Meaning that for many, maybe most families, there has been a history of interpersonal imbalance that has robbed the family of the security which intimacy requires. Maybe over the years dad didn’t tell his children that he loved them– leaving them thinking that they had been robbed of something. Maybe mom harbored fears of failing and struggled with finances jumping on anyone who in her opinion spent too much on stuff. Maybe one partner felt that they had carried more than their share of the burden. Maybe there were harmful secrets that held power. So when this family gathers around the Christmas tree with expectations of joy, and fun, and family memories, the hypocrisy of the situation bubbles up– reminders of just how far from the Currier and Ives romantic print this family is– which bubbles up resentment, anger, etc. So you can imagine the mixed messages that come from gifts. I can recall a time when my heart puked out such a powerful thought. I don’t even recall what the person gave me, but what came out of my heart was this– “Sure you want to look gracious and thoughtful now, but what about when you….!!! Am I just supposed to forget the things that you said then?” Fortunately I didn’t really say these words out loud. But the point is that I could not trust their generosity in the light of my perception of their history of a lack of generosity. No joy from their gift. No intimacy. Just an awkward gathering.
When there is a consistent or severe imbalance in this relational give-and-take, individuals feel that they either have been cheated by or have over-benefited from relationships. Instead of their being a balance that builds trustworthiness in a relationship, trust is drained and the members of the relationship feel that their just entitlement is threatened. Instead of providing individuals freedom to give and security to receive, the relationships becomes an unstable arena with a dog-eat-dong quality, where individuals strive only to secure their own entitlement. It is again the innate sense of justice that sets individuals in the relationship on this self-justifying claim toward securing compensation for their just entitlement.
This ‘destructive entitlement’ manifests itself in so many ways including: paranoid attitudes (they are out to get me, to destroy me), hostility, rage, emotional cutoffs, irresponsible behavior (getting drunk, driving under the influence, drugs, saying inappropriate things), and destructive harm to others.
Look, this Christmas perhaps the first step is to just see it for what it is. Here is where healing can begin starting Dec 26th. Jesus has come to bring peace– an external gift from His hands. Jesus is all about rebuilding the dismantled past. He brings with Him all of the entitlements, all of the Heavenly blessings that are now surprisingly mine strictly because he purchased them for me. I don’t earn a single one.
God, make me through Your Spirit in me, access power in order to grasp just how much You love me right now (Eph 3:14-21). Make me feel it, please. Because of what Jesus has done, You have to love me. You do, as much as You love your Son and Your Son loves You. You can’t love me any more or any less, no matter how good I have been this year or bad. You love me whether others who should do or not. That is stunning good news this Christmas. That would change things for me this holiday season. Imagine! That would be Noel!