A Soft Place to Land

Holidays are times intended for celebration. And as we prepare, we hope that the gathering goes well – even though in some families, some version of the dreaded Uncle “Smart Mouth” will be there.

We all want to avoid family division and strife. We all want to nurture and retain lasting relationships. And whatever their ages, we all want to stay connected to our children’s hearts.

But for some families, strife is a reality. And it is the time before and after the meal that contain the most volatile interactions.  One key word can strike the heart of its target and open wounds not visited for 12 months. Like sharp arrows, the words of well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) relatives can pierce a soul.

As hosts, parents, or watchful guests, what can we do to minimize the damage that cryptic and subtle jabs can bring?

I once heard a man in his forties talk about when he was a teen. He would come home drunk and as he stumbled through the dimly lit living room, his waiting mother would quietly engage him in conversation. She would say, “Sit with me here a moment while I tell you the most amazing thing I just read.” There was no lecture. No reprimand about his slurred speech or unkempt appearance. No condemnation. Just whispered gentleness.

The man said that it was this example set by his mother that made him the man he is today. He said, “I knew I had done wrong. And I knew she was disappointed in me. But she made sure that she was a soft place to land. She wanted my heart and protected it at all cost.”

As we walk through the holidays, let us remember that our focus is to capture hearts by being a soft place to land. It’s a predetermined choice. A mindset surrounded by kindness and gentleness. To listen, encourage, and yield to compassion. Let us be a soft place to land. Our children, and their friends, are watching.