“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” –Calvin Coolidge
I express the following thoughts with the idea that I’m addressing myself as much as I am addressing you. In fact, I’m probably thinking out loud to myself, and to my experiences, more than to anyone else. What I know is, many good and bad things in this world are beyond our control, yet many aspects of our lives can be directed by the kind of attitude we decide to have—for ourselves and toward others. Perhaps I am naive in believing that people can change, even when they themselves believe it is impossible. Yet I cannot proceed in any other way than to try and see the best in others, unless and until they prove to me otherwise. It is with these hopes and ideas in mind that I write:
People constantly amaze me around Christmastime, for good and for bad. I’d like to sing along wholeheartedly to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” with Andy Williams, but sometimes the days leading up to Christmas feel miles away from wonderful.
People truly have a wide capacity to love and show kindness and generosity to others. You grab the door for a young couple, whose screaming and maxed-out toddler is moments away from waking his baby sister. You drop a donation at the local food bank to give other families the cheer of a warm Christmas dinner. You shop, make, bake, and pull together various gifts to express affection toward those special loved ones in your life. You travel across town, across the country, or across the world for the holidays so you can be with the ones you love. We go to great lengths to express love and celebrate this season, and that’s a truly beautiful thing!
Yet we also, tragically, have the greatest capability to be the rudest, most self-centered beings on the planet. Some of us set up this image in our minds that Christmas ought to be like a print from Currier and Ives—an ideal scene on canvas, but hardly a good standard in reality. So, something goes wrong and you push blame on every other possible outlet you find.
Some of us can’t see beyond the hectic schedule juggling of work, kids activities, cooking and baking, parties, or gift finding and wrapping. Sometimes the last straw is that one person in the check-out line, on the highway, in the parking lot… that one person being the only thing standing in the way of what we want and where we need to go.
Some of us believe that the best Christmas moment is when your family member or friend opens the gift you’ve worked so hard to find and finally put together. Sometimes that person’s reaction falls far short of your hopes and expectations; your mood sinks into melancholy and you begin finding fault in other people, in food not tasting as good as it did before, or in music that’s suddenly too raucous.
What gets into our heads? Why do we let such simple things get blown far out of proportion? What’s the trigger?
I say ‘we’ because I am also far from perfect. When communication drops, frustrations set in, assumptions are made, and feelings get hurt… and it can all boil over.
But does it really need to go that far? I’ve been in many situations lately where the feeling that we ‘just need to vent’ doesn’t actually alleviate stress. In fact, the constant venting doesn’t even come close to solving the problem. It’s just rehashing what we already know (or think we know), and it can often add stress to those around us.
We can be so thoughtless.
Now, please don’t walk away from this message thinking that I’m asking you to internalize the stress in your life! Speaking as a chronic stress-internalizer myself, keeping your feeling bottled up day in and day out is not healthy.
And please don’t believe I’m being insensitive to the pain and problems in our world. They are real, they are immediate, and many of them have no end in sight. Even if I cannot empathize, I sympathize with you… and if I could reach out my hand, hold fast, and tell you ‘you aren’t alone’ in person—I would in a heartbeat. Because you aren’t alone, we aren’t alone… and I hope we can find a sliver of comfort in that.
Here’s the point: all I’m asking is that, for the little things, we be aware and more mindful—more intentional—more self-controlled. Let’s prize these as good qualities we want to see in ourselves. Let’s set aside this cacophony of urgency, the demand that other people must instantly understand our complex injustices; after all, understanding takes time, and we usually have more than we think. Let’s drop the finger pointing and the ‘you shouldn’t be mad at me’ shouting, and let’s consider whether that other person deserves all your unleashed anger. Is it really necessary? Will it help your relationship? Not likely.
Maybe this kind of thinking prevents us from getting what we want, when we want it. Maybe we aren’t going to instantly have all we desire. Maybe we aren’t as entitled to it as we think we are.
And maybe this doesn’t make as much sense as it did when it was percolating in my head, still unwritten…
But—can we agree that the first step toward positive change can start with personal awareness? I’d like to think so. And I’d like to think that, with this small effort, we can make someone else’s personal world better than how we found it… and we can let that overflow into our own lives.
I think it’s worth a try, and I’m going to put my full effort into seeing it happen in my life. I’ll likely fail… quite often, I’m sure. Yet in doing so, I’ll keep trying, knowing I’m doing everything I can to succeed in forming a new habit, and I’ll have held nothing back in making this positive change.
And if I succeed, if we succeed… how sweet and enduring that victory will be!
‘Tis the season for Christmas wishes, and I’m going to start mine today.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to you all! Much love!
“Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.” –Oren Arnold