I recently read an article that answered a question so many of us grapple with, why do our family members push our buttons? I'm sure you can identify that one family member that has an uncanny way of getting under your skin. You know the one who masterfully goes for the gut seemingly without thought or hesitation... The one you whose company you do not enjoy... Or, the one who lights up the family dinner table with an wryly anecdotal childhood memory, at your expense...Can you relate? I bet you can!
The article asserted that these individuals are able to push our buttons because they installed them! Wow, right?
Each of us come from a family with unique nuances and styles of relating. Families are unique microcosms; no two are alike. Everyone within a family plays a role that is clearly defined within the context of the family unit. Whether it is that of the mascot, the victim, the scapegoat, or the hero--each member knows the role and plays it masterfully. Most of these roles are established in childhood and evolve, becoming more clearly defined over time. Environments, atmospheres, experiences, dynamics in the home, and interactions among family members are factors that install our "buttons".
As the Holiday season is in full throttle, many are dreading the family dinner. So, how do we navigate through this awkward and uncomfortable? Do we opt out of going? Do we ignore and retreat, finding a quiet corner? Do we make ourselves threatening and unapproachable? Do we expend our energy being anxious and nervous as we await the gathering? Do we rehearse a witty comeback or stage a timely exit? Rather than employ our typically soulish and generally, useless practices like avoidance, reaction, or passive-aggression, it may be more profitable to approach any family gathering with an understanding that each family member has the same desire--to experience unconditional and unfailing love within the family unit. It is the greatest core longing of every human soul.
Our deepest desire is to feel love, warmth, security, and acceptance. To feel unloved, unwanted, unprotected, and unaccepted is disorienting to our human experience. When the longing for love is unmet in our families of origin, we are left a wanton place. This reality deeply effects how we interact with or react to others. It defines how we love, when we have not been loved well and are functioning at a deficit.
So, how does one authentically give what may be grossly foreign and unfamiliar? We accept and receive the love of God and begin to offer love as He would (John 3:16, I John 4). If we are Christians, within us lies the capacity to love from a divine place. As we demonstrate the love of God, we become beneficiaries of his goodness. Healing comes. Wellness comes. Empathy, compassion, and understanding comes.
As you interact with family this Holiday season, go with God. Be aware of our triggers. Rise above them. Identify who historically pushes your buttons. Self-examine with emotional honesty, How do I react when my buttons are pushed? Am I pushing buttons? Why? What am I trying to achieve? How are my reactions wounding a loved one? Take these things to God in prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit for help and guidance and you navigate the tricky, dicey waters of family. Recognize that you have the power and the love of God within you. His might is able to transcend and cut through all family dynamics.
You can greet your family with love, kindness, and compassion through contemplative prayer, Scripture reading, and meditating on the word of God. David said in Psalm 119:1, "I treasure your word in my heart, so that I won't sin against you. (CEV)" The Word of God enables us to speak good words. It may take time and a lot of spiritual discipline, but when we purpose align ourselves with the word of God and not be drawn into those toxic things family can do--we begin the journey of uninstalling those pesky buttons and becoming the change agent within our family while bringing health and wellness to our souls.
Father, in the name of Jesus, I thank you that you are the Creator of all things. You created families. You know our family dynamics, struggles, dysfunction, and challenges. You know our hurts, pain, and disappointments. You know where there has been trauma, abuse, neglect, and indifference. You know our roots and family history. You know when we have not been loved well. You know the times we felt forgotten, mocked, unwanted, ridiculed, and mishandled. You know every tear we have cried, even when it seemed no one noticed or cared (Psalm 56:8). We give you our overwhelming pain and ask for your healing of the wounds of our souls. We pray for your peace and comfort. We thank you for your unfailing love. We receive it now, in Jesus' name. Give us grace to walk in compassion, love, and care as we interact with our families. May we be the change we desire to see in our families. Amen and so be it according to your word.