How to Deal with Difficult Family Members During the Holidays

The holidays are right around the corner, and they can be a struggle for many. How you deal with difficult family members during the holidays comes down to the principle and power of unity and battling in the opposite spirit. 

What do these two things mean?

  1. The power of unity: Psalm 133 speaks about the blessing of unity. Where there is unity, God commands a blessing. Where there is unity, there is also protection. 
  2. Battling in the opposite spirit: We all have a natural and fleshly way we want to respond when someone says something we don’t agree with. However, battling out of the opposite spirit means you pause, ask the Holy Spirit to identify the fleshly desire, and replace it with His. Then you respond out of His guidance and wisdom. This leads to love, forgiveness, restoration, and unity.

Join Rabbi Curt Landry in this podcast as he gives an inspiring and encouraging message about the commanded blessing of unity and how to operate in the opposite spirit when dealing with difficult family members and situations. 

You won’t want to miss this podcast as you prepare for the holidays. 

Transcription from Podcast (Revised for Readability)

How to deal with difficult family members during the holidays… This is the subject we’re going to discuss today.

Hi, this is Curt Landry. I want to teach you about the principle and power of unity, and how to battle in the opposite spirit. 

Battling in the Opposite Spirit

What does it mean to battle in the opposite spirit? It means that when your flesh wants to respond to a situation or person in a certain way, you take it to the Holy Spirit and ask Him how to respond out of the fruit of the Spirit. 

Example of Battling in the Opposite Spirit

Let’s say someone says something mean to you. Naturally, in your flesh, you want to lash out and respond in anger. But when you choose to diffuse that natural response by taking it to the Holy Spirit and inviting Him into the process as you hand over your emotions to Him, then you can respond in love and forgiveness. You surrender your right to be angry even though you have a right to be angry, particularly when people are mistreating you

Focusing on the Holidays

Let’s focus on Thanksgiving because Thanksgiving is a time to give with joy.

Curt Landry’s Family Background

I want to give you a little bit of a history here so you know where I come from. I was raised obviously in the 50s.

I’m 67 years old, but I was raised in the 50s in southern California and Los Angeles. We had five members in our family. We had grandparents, which were French Canadians, Meme and Pepe. And then I had cousins. I had two sets of cousins. They were Catholic; one had 10 kids, and one had 11 or 12.

And we lived in an 850 square feet home. So you can imagine how that was. Praise God that it was southern California and we could go outside. The house was jam-packed with people. There were people always at our house. Sometimes we got together at my Uncle Roger’s house, which was a little bigger. 

I have great memories. I had great times of thanksgiving and joy. And the reason I’m even telling you this story is that I so looked forward to this holiday of Thanksgiving. I had enough cousins that we would go out in the street and play basketball, and it was always baseball season. We had enough family to have two full teams, and it was just great memories. 

However, when we got older, when I started to become a teenager and got older, I found out that a lot of my aunts and uncles and my parents and grandparents didn’t like each other. The family did a pretty good job of keeping the disagreements or attitudes toward one another to the side at the time.

But, while we were out in the street playing after we all ate a meal–we had multiple card tables set up everywhere, all over the house, living room, den, and then the adults all sat at one table–there was tension.

As I Grew Up, I Realized…

It wasn’t until I got older that I realized my dad didn’t like so-and-so, and someone else didn’t like my dad. And this uncle didn’t like that uncle.  And this aunt didn’t like that aunt. But I’ll be honest with you, this ruined it for me in a sense. 

Christie and I raised our daughter, Megann. And one of the things that I used to say to her (this is before we were saved) was every member in this house has a responsibility to keep peace in the house because you can maybe change friends, but you can’t change your family.

You have to learn how to deal with family members because the Lord gave them to you (of course, you might have to separate from them if it is unhealthy or disruptive in some way).  

But what I want to talk to you about today on this session and this podcast is this: Thanksgiving is a time to give joy. 

Your Children Are Listening

Focus on the benefit of family and children and be very aware of what I just said in my testimony that it’s really important what you say and discuss in front of your children. Those little ears are listening, trust me. And you may think they are only 1, 3, or 5 and not listening, but they are. They’re listening to what you say, and you know that that’s true because it’s always embarrassing when they come back and say something creative.

I remember one of the most embarrassing things we ever experienced when Megann was little. (I’m sure she’s not going to like me to tell this story with her being COO of the ministry.) She was real little, we weren’t saved, and my wife and I both had potty mouths. We weren’t saved and came out of the world. Cussing was just a part of it. But we never thought about it when having this little child. 

But I can remember she was like two years old, and we were at a family event with Christie’s parents. Christie’s family, like mine, was big. And I can remember little Megann was playing with something that broke and didn’t come together the way she wanted. And she was cussing afterward just like an adult.

She said what we said. I won’t repeat it, but you can just imagine. Christie and I were so shocked. There’s this little two-year-old cussing. And, of course, it is an unsaved family across the board. So everybody laughed. 

But it wasn’t funny because here’s the thing: It wasn’t just the words coming out, but that spirit of anger we had when we said those words to her. There was a spirit of frustration and anger we had imparted to her. It was in the atmosphere and had created it as a family. 

You need to be able to see the benefits of family. With all this COVID and different things that have happened, I have done more funerals in the last two years than I did in 10 years in our ministry, and so many people have passed.

And the thing that always strikes me when I do these funerals is (I’m usually part of the funeral or I’m in the leadership side pastorally) the disconnect that happened years before. 

Before the funeral, I always get a briefing of something such as this family member hasn’t been connected to the family for 20 years, or this one’s been estranged for this amount of time. 

It always strikes me. Family is always there, crying. And so many times when I’m there, they’re all thinking, I wished I had more time to reconcile our differences. You see, people–especially family–tend to test you. And that’s one of the reasons I think we get testy. This is one of the benefits of coming together… to exercise responsibility. 

The Benefits We Get to Activate During the Holidays

We’re blessed. We have the power of the name of Jesus. We have the blood of Jesus. We are healed. If we die, we’re not going to hell. Our name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life. We have eternal life. We have all the benefit packages. 

And you have to realize, especially dealing with these unsaved family members, the only chance they’re going to have to be around a Believer, and in that atmosphere, is you!

3 Steps to Dealing with Difficult Family Members

So then, how to deal with difficult family during the holidays is this…. 

1. Choose to pray and lift up the difficult family member before you go. 

Before you go to grandma’s or wherever you are going, or before people come to your house, pray for the difficult family members and lift them up to the Lord. Pray for them with your children.

When praying with children, use wise word choices. Identify the key things to pray for, knowing your children are listening. Say something like, “Lord, we lift up Uncle Bob, who has been going through difficult circumstances. We thank you that Uncle Bob is coming. He is a great guitarist and has a great voice. We hope that you touch his life. We pray that Uncle Bob will bless us with his gift of music.” 

Pray for their spouse if they have one. “Lord we thank you for Uncle Bob’s wife. We thank you for the food she will bring…” You get the idea. 

Don’t say, “Father God, we thank you for Uncle Bob. We thank you that he’s out of jail for that DUI. We thank you, Lord, that his divorce went through, and we thank you, Lord, that he’s paying child support now. And we thank you, Lord, that he finally went to AA, and he’s graduated.” No, you don’t do that. Do you hear what I’m saying? I’m really making a point here. 

2. Prepare the atmosphere of your heart.

Start praying and speaking out the good things because children are listening. And the power of life and death is in the tongue.

You’re also preparing the atmosphere of your heart, whether you’re going to their location or they’re coming to yours. You’re preparing your heart and soul to receive the joy and thanksgiving that comes with unity. 

3. Focus on being thankful. 

It’s interesting that in 1941, President Roosevelt signed Thanksgiving into effect as a federal holiday. Many people to this day gather together with friends and family. We think of Thanksgiving as an old holiday, but it’s not. The whole purpose of Thanksgiving is a remembrance of a time to remain thankful. And I think for the United States of America, we need to be thankful for a time of joy and remembrance and not be focused on politics on this holiday. 

Stay away from the vaccination issue and COVID. Consider the original reason for being thankful; the lessons helped and gave us a dwelling place in the United States of liberty, freedom, and justice for all. Praise the Lord for that. And praise the Lord for family members. 

You might want to have an exercise when you’re at the table and say, “What do we appreciate about Aunt Jan? Why do we appreciate her?” Steer clear from the heavy talk of politics and maybe even sports. My family we were big into sports. If you wanted to get the place cranked up, just start going down the wrong trail about that, and that would really get things stirred up. 

But I think that in the world today, where we struggle with media manipulation and all the different things that are going on, we lose sight of the true lesson of the day–to be thankful for one another no matter what.

We have to be faithful and thankful for them and speak some good things to them while they are here instead of having to wish we could have at their funeral. 

By giving that blessing and reflecting on Hebrews 10:24 and 25 says, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love, good works, not forsaking the assembly of ourselves together as a matter of some, but exhorting one another so much more so as we see the day approaching.” 

Here’s the key: We know this verse speaks about going to church and assembling and Bible study. But take it into consideration for your family

No Regrets Moving Forward

Understand, listen, I’m speaking from a place where Christie and I are in our late 60s. We’re the oldest ones in our family. So we’re at this place now where there are lots of empty chairs, so to say, and they’re all being filled now with these little people, and we rejoice in that. 

A lot of times, people ask if I have any regrets. I, personally, have lots of regrets, and I’m not ashamed of it. I just thank the Lord that whatever regrets I have, by being honest even with you, the Lord has shaped my habits and patterns into something new so that I don’t repeat the regrets.   

I’ll say this to you:  

  • I wish I had spent more time with my family. 
  • I wish I had spent more time honoring. 
  • I wished I wouldn’t have taken information, slander, gossip and whatever, and took sides.
  • I wish I hadn’t taken on personal feelings of people in the family, took on their grief or their grievance with somebody else. 
  • I wish I had spent more time with some of the more difficult family members. 

And why? Because I’m blessed. We’re blessed with health and prosperity. We are blessed, and God says so are you (Ephesians 1).

Being blessed comes with the responsibility to the ones who are not so blessed and it’s doing it to the least of these our brethren. 

In Conclusion…

I want to close with this: one of my favorite scriptures. Psalm 133 (from memory), “How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It’s like the precious oil that runs down the head and the beard and the garment of Aaron. And it’s like the dew of Mount Hermon. And it’s there where God commands a blessing.”

But here’s the key: unity is it’s where God commands the blessing of life. That word life is “l’chaim,” but also one of the words in it is breath. We’ve had family members that we’ve lost to different diseases where they pass by losing their breath. And it’s one of the most difficult things is to really grasp the fact that the breath that you just took, that I just took in, that’s mine. But the next breath is from God.

And the things that protect our breath, protect our health, protect the quality of life, protect our happiness, protect our joy, is unity. And so in Hebrew, I love, we sing a song, it’s called Hinei Ma Tov.

A Thanksgiving Blessing

And it’s like how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. So I’m going to read it to you here, and I want to speak it to you over your Thanksgiving table as a prayer. 

“Father God, I lift up all of our friends and family this Thanksgiving. And Lord, I decree over your table in your household, in Jesus’ name. I pray, behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard of Aaron, running down to the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon descending upon the mountains of Zion. And there, the Lord commanded the blessing of life forevermore. Father God, I release the joy of life this thanksgiving into your households.

“Thank You, Lord, that You would release the love of life. And Lord, I decree for all those listening that they’ll see good in this life. And Lord, I thank You that this Thanksgiving, we will refrain our tongues from evil and our lips from speaking deceit, and let us turn away from evil and do good. Lord, let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eye of the Lord is on the righteous, and His ear is open to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against the evil. Thank You, Lord, that as we come together in unity, we pray that You would rebuke the evil spirits that would try to come and break this unity in our celebration of this Thanksgiving. And we decree the blessing and battle in the opposite spirit of unity. And we decree and declare that this is a time to give joyfully.”

Thank you so much for listening and blessing us, and I hope to see you next time on the next podcast. God bless your table and shalom.


Curt Landry, founder of Curt Landry Ministries, and his wife, Christie, travel extensively, preaching and teaching about the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. Together, their passion is to empower families to live and leave Kingdom legacies and understand their own personal heritage.