For those of us who have come out of a family who has pretty much drained us of us (narcissistic abuse in general and emotional abuse in particular does that—but recovery is oh so grand, so don’t just lie around in the mud of victimhood for too long), it can be tricky to find our own groove in life without resorting to the self-centered life approaches that our parents or other authority figures relied on all those years we were growing up around them. While it sounds selfish to focus only on our own family (i.e., our own personhood and our own marriage and our own children)—at least for now—it’s actually the clearest form of self-responsibility that there is.
We are only responsible for ourselves and to those we are one with (our spouse) and those who came from us (our children). We are only responsible for ourselves and our own family. We are not responsible for our parents, our siblings, or for their families. While our spouse and our kids are not us and we are not responsible for them per se, we are, however, responsible for our relationship to and with them (being that we said vows at our wedding and that we followed through with birthing and keeping our children—even better if we dedicated them at church since it involves similar types of spoken vows before God (we can do this ourselves right now in prayer if we haven’t had the chance to dedicate our children in an official church ceremony—basically, we are promising God that we will take care of the precious life he has entrusted us and that we will let him help us as we raise our children with love and care)).
While we may love our parents and siblings and may long for a healthy relationship with them, there is a reasonable limit to how much we should give of ourselves to make the relationship work (so that it doesn’t cause us more pain than we have already endured as a result of being in relationship with our parents and/or siblings). We are not the ones who have married our parents (or siblings) or have birthed them (though through the years, that may have become unclear, in any regards). Therefore, if the relationship is in trouble, and we have truly done our part, then it is useless to remain in the relationship if it continues to cause us pain. It’s like any other hurtful, dysfunctional, or unhealthy relationship we may have experienced—breaking up is hard to do, but it’s absolutely essential if we ever hope to flourish as our own person and to help our own (and actual) spouse and children flourish.
Yes, God does miracles (speaking of the Christmas season), but he does his best work when we stop trying to make things happen ourselves and in our own strength. Divorcing our parents (and/or our siblings) is extremely difficult (and rather unnatural, obviously, as with spousal divorce), but sometimes it’s the best course for us if we have tried to stick with it and just can’t anymore (especially if we have our own children and need to be there for them instead of investing our energy into taking care of our parents (and/or siblings) emotionally or otherwise).
So during this holiday season, reject any notion that you are somehow responsible for the happiness and Christmas goodwill of anyone other than yourself and your own family. Our spouse and our children are the only ones who can choose for themselves whether they will participate in the happiness and goodwill of the Christmas season (i.e., we can’t make them choose happiness or Christmas goodwill if they won’t choose it for themselves), but our efforts to brighten the mood and lift the spirits simply need to be focused on our own home instead of being spent in ways that actually drain the happiness and goodwill from our families, similar to how we felt drained growing up because of how our parents or other authority figures chose to invest (and gain as fuel, through us) their time and energy. We only need to focus our time and energy on becoming (and staying) healthy and taking care of what is ours alone—most especially during the holidays.