Q: Every year we debate whether or not to invite my aunt for Thanksgiving. She's a very negative person who spends her whole time complaining and criticizing everyone, and it gets very unpleasant. Would she get the message if we didn't invite her this year? -- Mrs. A.F.
A: From what you say, I honestly doubt if she'll "get the message" if you don't invite her for Thanksgiving. Instead, you'll probably just give her another excuse to complain and criticize you even more. The Bible bluntly says, "Whoever hates correction is stupid" (Proverbs 12:1).
It's hard, I know, to be welcoming toward someone like this. But instead of seeing her as a problem, let me encourage you to see her presence with you as an opportunity -- an opportunity to help her overcome her negative outlook. Does this sound unrealistic? Yes, it probably does, and it may not happen all at once -- but with God's help, her time with you could be a turning point. Pray for her -- beginning today -- and pray too that God will give you patience and wisdom and kind words. The Bible says, "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones" (Proverbs 16:24).
What can you do? First, if possible, give her something to do that will keep her busy. Not only will it keep her occupied, but it'll let her know that you value her. Some people criticize or complain because they feel left out, and are only seeking attention. Seek ways to channel this in a healthy direction.
Then go out of your way to make this a time of true Thanksgiving. If someone says something negative, respond with something positive. You might even go around the table and let everyone express why they're thankful this year. Remember: thankfulness always overwhelms ingratitude.
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