With Christmas a few short weeks away comes the annual platitude floating about of valuing family and holding loved ones close. For some of us, it is a time to reflect on the past year and consider the relationship we have with the family we are obliged to value so much. How many chances have we given our siblings and parents? How many instances of showing affection were give-and-take and how many were us giving and them taking? Or maybe we have been guilty of taking without giving back? Why are our families insisting that we come over this Christmas? Do they truly care about us? Or only because it is the "right thing to do"? Is it for appearances? Maybe we have been guilty of not reaching out throughout the year? Do they count their charities at the end of the year and claim that you owe them? Have we ever done good deeds for the wrong reason? Either way, is generosity being met with gratitude?
Sacrifice is essential to any family. Love is not a feeling, it's the measure of how far you will sacrifice for someone. Remember that sacrifice is not the litmus test for love that you may think. I once believed that the more someone is willing to push his or herself, the more genuine the love. Unfortunately, sacrifice is sometimes used as leverage in manipulation. A parent may rub in all these sacrifices to guilt you into tearing down a boundary, for instance, while any good deeds and sacrifices you have ever done for them will suddenly disappear once you stand your ground. Suddenly, you are no longer loyal and thoughtful. Refuse to let them have their way and they call you selfish. Sacrifices, if they are genuine, are not counted and are never used in a guilt trip. Doing the bare minimum (e.g. basic duty of state) and rubbing it in as a "huge sacrifice" and insisting that you owe them affection for the basics is wrong too.
Another thing to ask is how proportionate has the loyalty been? Of course, no one owes us anything. Let us keep a distinction between a basic give-and-take and entitlement. What I mean is that love, of family, etc. is supposed to go two ways. Give and take, taking with gratitude and an intention to return the favor. If family is only giving once a year, on Christmas maybe, but taking without gratitude the other days of the year, there's something off. If you find yourself doing much of the work and sacrifices but your effort goes unappreciated, maybe it's time to withdraw that support. I have been disappointed a few times this year, thinking an improvement had been made with siblings only to be excluded time and time again. However, I say nothing now. I don't beg to be included. It's not fun when you are not welcome and begging until I have my way feels wrong.
Another examination point I always stress is consistency. Are they only extending their generosity, affection, and overall inclusion of you into their lives for one day? Are they only doing this because they feel it is a requirement meanwhile forgetting you exist the rest of the year? Family may be important to cherish during the Christmas season but how about the rest of the year?
Lastly, is your family's love conditional? Do you need to suppress any aspects of your personality (meaning harmless things like spontaneity or creativity)? Do you need to change for them to welcome you? From experience, I acknowledge their imperfections but show filial respect for my parents. I have been getting along better with them these past several months. Though come to think of it, I had to earn the respect back. Once I began driving, I was regarded as less of a burden and maybe things will continue to improve the longer I live on my own. Maybe soon I'll shed my "trophy-child" identity and won't fear losing their approval or support. It's too soon to tell. It's far from ideal, but in some families, the control in a parent-child relationship is so bad, adult children go no-contact altogether. My folks are nowhere near that severity. All I can do is try not to repeat their mistakes and treat my sisters the way I wish to be treated.
It is not my place to tell anyone what is best to do regarding family and holidays. In my case, it's best to be grateful for what I have, give gifts and more chances in hopes something will improve. Compared to other families, I have no right to complain. If you are in a situation where no-contact is appropriate, a substitute to family is fine. Friends, a significant other, people you choose to spend time with. Sure, there will be critics or even your own relatives who will go on about how important family is... but only so many chances can be given. When gratitude is absent, generosity should not be wasted.