It may seem trite and slightly overused to say it, but the old adage, “Make every day Christmas,” has more power than you might think. In fact, maybe, just maybe, the way to have life feel like Christmas every day is to truly live the spirit of Christmas in our relationships at Christmas time. Practicing good relationships this Christmas could lead to a changed outlook on life, improved communication and connection habits, and an overall sense of gratitude.
It’s Not Realistic; It’s Idealistic
When I was in my youth, a teacher at church mentioned in a lesson that, “we all behave the best toward everyone at Christmas, so why not make every day Christmas in our hearts?” This rang true to me, but I also immediately recognized a flaw in the proposed plan. Every day isn’t Christmas, and the only reason Christmas is so special is because it isn’t every day. So, even if people try to make every day feel like Christmas, then it will soon become an old, usual feeling that people will take for granted, just like every good feeling that people get used to. And as soon as a person takes advantage of a feeling of love and unity, they begin to not appreciate what is good around them. This causes the person to get lazy and stop serving or contributing to the plan of goodness. So, as quickly as I accepted the idea of making Christmas be my way of living every day, I dismissed it as unrealistic.
Until now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still unrealistic. In fact, it’s totally idealistic. But what is wrong with idealism?
In order to throw out ideals, a person also has to dismiss goals, duty, and progress, which are all focused on ideals. Demoting ideals to a place of non-importance in our minds is a defeatist view of life that leads to disempowerment and increased self-loathing. After all, it’s the idealist who is optimistically focused on inching herself toward a goal or ideal who’s the happiest and most content, and is even inspiring to others.
When a person stops trying to progress toward an ideal, they really just stop altogether. People aren’t happy when they’re stopped or stuck. In this condition, most people feel insignificant, alone, trapped, and left out. They look at the people around them who are happily working toward their ideals and wish that they could be that happy, too. Ideals are power! Ideals give purpose! Our society must continue to embrace healthy ideals to heal from social/personal discontentment and relationship dysfunction that are plaguing the globe.
Practice Is Your Friend
Another old adage is, “practice makes perfect.” This is an irrefutable truth. So, if practice is our friend, why don’t we practice making friends more often? The answer is simple; it takes effort, time, and a willingness to put others first, while also stepping out of a comfort zone.
Yet, at Christmas time we do all of these! We buy things for others, walk around wishing each other, “Merry Christmas,” forgive our family and friends for the mistakes they’ve made, and get together for Christmas dinners anyway. We let the hard feelings go and focus on why we value the people around us, instead of pridefully focusing on how imperfect they all are or what we want to do. We think about what we can do for others instead of about who is going to do something for us. It’s as if Jesus Christ gives us a piece of His love for all the people around us as we focus on trying to be more like Him each year around his birthday celebration.
Christmas time is the perfect time to practice being the best versions of ourselves so that we have a point of reference for what’s really possible for us. Instead of lamenting that every day of the year isn’t one of the magical days of December, really be your best this December. Love, cherish, listen, understand, forgive, and serve all those around you. And, after 25 days of practicing to be that version of you, you will see the world differently…maybe for the rest of the year.
It’s a choice to be happy, to love, to serve, and to forgive. And, after the choice has been made one time, it’s easier the next time around. If you want a better relationship with someone you love, you have to choose it and live it before it becomes what you hope for. Daily practice is part of a change of heart or a change of relationship. As you decide to open your heart to those around you this year and forgive past mistakes, your heart and their heart will have a chance to appreciate each other again. Gratitude is the seed of love and connection.
Gratitude could solve many of the problems in the world. We always stumble on our selfishness. Afterwards, relationships seem awkward or strained. This is when we fall into regret or hopelessness. Since entertaining pride started our relationship problem in the beginning, we only need to reverse the situation from the beginning to put ourselves back on course.
At the beginning we can choose gratitude for someone or something, or we can choose not to be satisfied with the person or offering. We can see our circumstances pessimistically and feed negative feelings within ourselves, or we can optimistically value the person or offering as a gift to our lives.
When it’s hard to love, starting with gratitude is always a good plan. At holiday gatherings, optimistically focus on what you are grateful for. Did you get invited? Did someone smile at you? Did you choose to feel cheerful when you saw the decorations or the food?
Sometimes we don’t get invited, welcomed, or smiled at, but there are still blessings all around us that we can recognize and feel grateful for. Deliberate gratitude like this is life-changing. It makes rainstorms and windy days just as motivating and welcoming as that perfect spring day.
Just as I’m writing this, my husband came into my office, took off my glasses, and gave me a big kiss. The kiss was sweet and unexpected. But, when I went to put my glasses on again to start typing, I couldn’t see due to his greasy fingerprints. I could focus on the fingerprints and the inconvenience of cleaning my glasses, or I could focus on the sweet spontaneity of the kiss. I choose to see the kiss and forget the fingerprints. Dropping the subject of the fingerprints is a sign of gratitude for my husband. Focusing on the positive allows my relationship to deepen and my happiness to grow.
Party Or Not
No matter what Christmas holds for you this year (party or not, people or not, presents or not), practice feeling grateful. Live each Christmas day in December deliberately to help you reach your ideals this coming year. Your Christmas relationship practice this year will make next year easier and more enjoyable and should help you recognize even more people to be grateful for. If some of those people are hard to like or love, keep remembering why you are grateful for them and the season, and your overall optimism and gratitude for life will grow. Maybe we can’t really make each day Christmas, but we can use Christmas to make us better each day.
Nicholeen’s Next Teaching Self-Government Parenting Mastery Training is in January.