Are You Treated Like a Child During the Holidays?

One of my personal pet peeves is when other people treat me like I’m a child. If I get talked down to like I’m ignorant or incapable, it usually triggers me in a way that provokes an ungodly response in my heart, words, and even actions.

This phenomenon can be more real than ever when we go to our parents’ place for the holiday season. Something about being back in your childhood home can instantly transport both your parents’ attitude toward you and your own demeanor back into the past and make you start to feel and act like you’re fourteen years old again . . . in a bad way.

You’re sleeping in your old bedroom, sitting in the same spot on the couch, and washing your hands in the same bathroom where you learned to potty train as a child. Your dad and mom talk to you like no time has passed since your high school graduation, and frankly, all the old patterns of interaction you were fine with when you were eighteen all of a sudden annoy you to no end. Everyone is treating you like a kid and if you’re honest, you’re responding like a kid too.

A Different Person

But you’re not a child anymore. You’ve matured and changed since you moved out. You’ve grown in your relationship with God and increased in your affection for Jesus by leaps and bounds compared to when you were younger. You’re a different person.

And yet when your family teases you about the embarrassing thing you said or did when you were nine, it’s like they’re challenging the very growth you treasure because of God’s grace in your life. It hurts, so you immediately feel anger and defensiveness well up inside. You feel mocked and belittled by the reminder of your past self, and contrary to the spiritual growth you’ve experienced, you respond to your family in a way that plays right into the old stereotype of the former self you believed was long gone.

It’s a frustrating cycle and you hate it.

New Responses out of a New Identity

One of the pieces of Scripture I like to consistently remind myself of in scenarios like heading home for the holidays is 1 Corinthians 13:11. It says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

This verse is riding on the heels of the famous passages the apostle Paul teaches us about love (vv. 1–8), and the chapter ends with verse 13 that says, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV)

When we pay attention here, we can see that the admonition to give up childish ways is sandwiched between exhortations to love.

Loving our families through the power of the Holy Spirit in a Christlike way will negate the knee-jerk, childlike reactions we are tempted to respond with when our family reminds us of who we used to be in our younger years.

Honesty About Your Struggle

When it feels impossible to live out a life of godly maturity in the context of an environment that consistently reminds you of your former childish self, first recognize and admit that you are prone to failure in this area. You’ll never be able to get on the solution side of this stumbling block if you aren’t able to candidly admit that you’re awful at growing in this area.

Once you’re able to admit that you’re struggling to respond to your family in maturity and love, confess your ineptitude to the Lord. Allow him to break you of your tendency to live in childish ways when you’re at home with your parents, and then ask him to give you the power to live out the love God calls us to have for our friends and family.

This is not about pumping yourself up to muster the strength of loving others when they treat you like a child during this holiday season. The power to love people comes from God, not you. Remember that Galatians 5:22–23 tells us it’s the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of our own effort.

Grow in Love

The first fruit mentioned in Paul’s list of what God produces in us by the power of his Spirit is love. I think that’s purposeful.

The call to love others is the call to Christianity itself. Jesus said that love for others would be the distinguishing characteristic of being his disciple (John 13:35). Love is the quality written into the very spiritual DNA of a follower of Christ because the Holy Spirit who lives is us makes it possible for us to love when it feels impossible.

After all, God is in us and he is love (1 John 4:8).

In a season when you’re tempted to roll your eyes and consistently get annoyed with the people who’ve known you your whole life and remind you of the child you used to be, call on the power of the Holy Spirit to respond in radical, godly love instead of the ways you did when you were a kid.

Only then will you see the power God has to end your childish ways.


Pressure Points Frontcover

PRESSURE POINTS: A GUIDE TO NAVIGATING STUDENT STRESS

From navigating failure, roadblocks, and spiritual warfare to tackling relevant, hard-hitting topics such as drinking, sex, dating, pornography, and the fear of missing out, Pressure Points encourages college students to consider Jesus in the midst of everyday struggles.


Photo by TARIK KIZILKAYA from iStock.

About the author

Shelby Abbott

Shelby Abbott is an author, campus minister, and conference speaker on staff with the ministry of Cru. His passion for university students has led him to speak at college campuses all over the United States. He and his wife, Rachael, have two daughters and live in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. He is Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress and DoubtLess: Because Faith is Hard.

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