19 December 2022 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
Our Thanksgiving dinner was a disaster. We expected a happy gathering around the table with everyone feeling gratitude, but my father hijacked it by lashing out at the table with political topics and dumb conspiracy theories about vaccinations and the 2020 election. Several of us tried to change the subject, but he wouldn’t be stopped. I saw other guests’ eye-rolling each other, and most turned quiet and just focused on their food.
Now my parents are supposed to join us for Christmas—and I’m still angry. Aunt Sevvy, what are we going to do about this constant political controversy, and those who have no common sense about what to say?
Signed, Grinch Survivor
I’d be very surprised if you’re the only one who had this problem—and I’m expecting our readers to share stories of their own.
A lack of civility and courtesy are a hallmark of today’s social interactions. Many families find themselves on opposite sides of an increasingly widening opinion gap—an uncomfortable place to be while sitting across the table with nothing but a tofurkey between you.
Some of these folks believe they are “telling it like it is” or “not afraid to speak the truth,” but those are often code phrases for angry tactlessness and a lack of common sense. Some, Aunt Sevvy thinks, may realize the differences in opinion have caused a breach, but believe they’re actually addressing the breach in relationship by bringing it up—unfortunately, at inopportune times like holiday dinners.
A good response to memorize for such situations might be something like this: “I would be happy to share my point of view with you if you would like, but right now I would rather spend some quality time with you, and the rest of the family. Could we not talk about these things now, and instead address what we have in common?” By sidestepping the political attack, and instead addressing the underlying fear that there is uncrossable chasm in your relationship, you might be able to save your next family meal together.
If this approach doesn’t work, your father deserves a private discussion before you cut him off from family gatherings. Wait until you aren’t as steaming mad as you are now, and then try to have a reasonable conversation with him about how ruinous are his political rants. Admit that you cannot tolerate the discomfort he creates and ask if he is willing to change his behavior.
And if he argues with you, and can’t see he did anything wrong, then be strong and suspend the invitation.
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—without identifying the writer. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.