How to Approach Controversial Topics with Family This Christmas

Alicia Searl

Contributing Writer
Published Nov 28, 2023
How to Approach Controversial Topics with Family This Christmas

It’s obvious the world is groaning, people are hurting, and everyone has a voice that is crying to be heard and understood.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The family is over, delicious food graces the table, children are happily running around, and everyone is donning their best festive sweaters while hugging those they missed at Thanksgiving. It’s a joyful time filled with laughter and love!

That is until it isn’t. As everyone gathers around the extra-long table to enjoy the lavish feast, your sweet cousin breaks the ice with a statement that leaves everyone bashfully bewildered. Then silence. Glaring glances are exchanged while others bite their lower lip to keep from responding. The teens quickly look down at their phones, while one giggles. Crickets fill the room as the tension ensues. Umm… awkward.

What to do? How to respond? Is there a way out?

Let’s just go ahead and cut to the chase here, there is a lot going on in our world today, isn’t there? We must recognize that. It’s obvious the world is groaning, people are hurting, and everyone has a voice that is crying to be heard and understood. 

I, for one, am not the girl to generally shy away from tough conversations. In fact, I can sometimes come on a bit strong, just like too much icing on a Christmas cookie. Unfortunately, it has hindered my testimony and has caused tension with others, leading to not-so-pretty consequences. Honestly, my heart may have been in the right place and meant well, but the delivery and execution of my words - not so much.

Knowing that we can often be passionate about our faith, especially this time of year, just how do we approach these controversial conversations? Because more than likely these topics may come up when we gather with a large group of people with possible opposing views or outlooks on current events.

Well, my friend, take heart and know that God already has the answers, even before the drama unfolds. Phew! I don’t know about you, but that gives me so much comfort. If you are anything like me and can tend to put your foot in your mouth, it’s nice to know God’s grace is free-flowing. But, that said, I would also like to prevent conversations from taking a devastating detour in the first place. So, will you join me in seeking God’s peace and joy as we prepare to gather with family this Christmas? Let’s invite God into our midst and allow Him to lead and direct our thoughts, deeds, words, and actions, opting to share His love with a heart full of mercy and grace.

Listen Respectfully

This sounds so obvious, but when we are chomping at the bit, waiting to share our heart and passionate declarations of truth, we honestly aren’t listening. Instead, we are essentially waiting to speak - and probably speak loud and proud. After all, when we are approached with topics that don’t line up with God’s Word, we should have a pain in our hearts and earnestness to share the good news (Romans 1:16).

However, if that someone is a fellow brother or sister in Christ, a new believer, or one who doesn’t know the love of Christ, we may learn from them as they open up and share their heart. It also allows us to step away from ourselves and our situation and see another perspective. James 1:19 tells us that we are to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. If we actually practiced this, we may be living in a completely different world. 

Next time a heated conversation arises, pause and listen. And do your best to listen with intentionality. Stay focused on what they are saying and extend compassionate gestures such as a head nod and eye contact. This will give the assurance that you do genuinely care what they have to say. The simple act of active listening allows both sides to soften their hearts while inviting God into those conversations.

Speak with Truth, Love, and Grace

When we approach certain topics with an attitude of love, we open doors for God to reveal His Truth through love and grace. However, much too often, we may listen to a certain point of view, and then become ready to share the gospel, almost as a line of defense. Then when we do share Scripture to back up our point, we may somewhat expect them to immediately hop on board and declare, “Yes, you are right!” 

But, here is what we must remember – we shouldn’t be out to win or get that family member to see our side and suddenly be enlightened or saved. Unfortunately, that places way too much focus on us and essentially removes the magnitude of our awesome God! In other words, it is not up to us to change the nature of people’s hearts, but is ultimately up to our loving Father. 

Friend, the truth of the matter is that we are to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-39). Yes, love those family members who hold a differing view, even if their view doesn’t align with God. Now, don’t misunderstand that love means accepting their view or condoning sin, but rather speaking in love makes a way for God to show His goodness and reveal His Truth as we respond with tact, poise, grace, and humility.  

Avoid Being Sucked into a Debate

This time of year is about gathering with those we love and spreading joy, so we must do our best to avoid quarrels or disputes. Yet at the same time, we must not compromise on the truths of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This may bring into question: is there a way to avoid debates while still standing up for truth? Especially since the very nature of this holiday is to celebrate the wonders of Jesus’ humble birth and what that means for all of mankind. 

God’s Word is clear on this very issue. Striking a balance when such topics arise around the dinner table is not for the faint of heart. And for those who like to speak up and boldly proclaim truth, it comes with a bit of self-control. 2 Timothy 2:24-25 states that we are to be kind, patient, and gently instruct with truth. We must recognize that Christmastime is about loving our God and the people in our lives with open and welcoming hearts. The truth of the matter is that we have a unique opportunity to share the story of Jesus, His incredible love, and a chance to share how He has impacted our lives. 

When troubled conversations come up, we have the choice to bow out gracefully, change the trajectory of our words, and reply in a gentle manner, or take the bait and let sparks fly. It is essentially up to us to avoid conversations that can lead to debate and, instead, love like Jesus, embracing all who walk through our doors with open arms.

Pray for God to Be Present

As we prepare for this beautiful time of year, let’s start by checking our own hearts. How can we invite God into the heavy and hurting parts of our own wounds and scars we carry? When we take our hearts to Him and allow restoration to befall us, we can slowly let go of anything that is keeping us from experiencing the pure joy of this season.

Before all your guests arrive, pause and pray. Then give God any fear, worry, anger, or pride that may be seeping in. Hand over the need to feel heard and understood, and rest in the assurance that God is with you. When the time arises and those awkward conversations bring forth tension or fill the room with an eerie silence, allow that to be an opportunity for God’s presence to be known. Simply acknowledging that we may each hold a different viewpoint but love still abounds. 

God is our ultimate source of love, and all we need, so let’s be sure to share that love with everyone we come into contact with and use it as a way to spread hope. May you have a peaceful Christmas with those you dearly love, and may your conversations be filled with His rich goodness. 

Photo Credit: ©cottonbro

Alicia SearlAlicia Searl is a devotional author, blogger, and speaker that is passionate about pouring out her heart and pointing ladies of all ages back to Jesus. She has an education background and master’s in literacy.  Her favorite people call her Mom, which is why much of her time is spent cheering them on at a softball game or dance class. She is married to her heartthrob (a tall, spiky-haired blond) who can whip up a mean latte. She sips that goodness while writing her heart on a page while her puppy licks her feet. Visit her website at and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.