A Perfect Time of Year for Forgiveness

Happy Holidays!

Christmas is my favorite holiday. Bright lights. Cheerful, familiar music. Freshly baked goodies and the earthy aroma of cedar and pine. The crispness in the air. I love it all. Most of all, I love spending time thinking about what I can do to express my love and make the people in my life feel known. That is what the holidays mean to me.

In many ways, this season is about forgiveness. We have the chance to acknowledge those we love and choose connection over judgment and separation, if only for a day.

I admit this is not the “cool” perspective to have. As an evolved, conscientious being, I should see the irony of a world distracted by consumerism and propaganda marketing. I should be offended by how the system works to control what I want and what I do. I should resist the establishment. As for family, I should definitely hold on to being sure that everyone is trying to piss me off. Why else would they do stupid things, right?

For many years, I saw everyone in my life this way. Then I forgave. And what once seemed like perfectly defensible righteousness suddenly seemed unimportant. I realized how I viewed the people and circumstances in my life was up to me. I could stand ready to fight or look for the potential and blessings in it all. When I chose to be a part of the whole, I experienced joy instead of loneliness and exhaustion.

That said, the holidays can be a difficult time for some. We are expected to spend time with people whose company we might not enjoy. We spend money we might not have. Not to mention all of the bodies everywhere we go. Where are all of these people the rest of the year? I don’t know, but the hustle and bustle can raise tensions. It challenges our ability to stay centered.

If you feel impacted by the season’s demands, try mixing things up and just embrace it. After all, most of what is happening out there is out of your control. Why not relax and appreciate the ride? Let the crazy drivers go ahead of you. Try smiling at everyone at the grocery store. Ask the cashier how they are doing. Call that family member you’re dreading seeing and ask what you can bring. Surprise them with a bottle of wine or a poinsettia. You might just start liking the month of December after meeting the demands of the holidays with some joyful irreverence.

Here are four motivations to help transform your relationship to the “holidaze.” Learn to view it as a valuable and sacred period for tending your own hearth (and heart) with the greatest gift of all: forgiveness.

Forgiveness enables us to cultivate the valuable skill of empathy. Imagine being able to see through the eyes of the people who infuriate you the most. We all know how it feels to expect others to respect and understand our views. Empathy allows you to make strides toward respecting and understanding theirs. In valuing inclusion and acceptance, you can avoid the childish game of “she/he started it.” Empathy is a candle that burns brightly and has the power to catch everything in its brilliance and warmth. TIP: If you find judgment ruling the moment, ask yourself, “Am I living my values today as I work to understand views different than my own?”

Forgiveness makes us braver. The holidays might bring up stress and fear because life is less predictable (and more demanding). Rather than responding to the underhanded comment from your mother by becoming defensive, recall the work you have done to be courageous and let it go. When you are reacting, you are often responding to protect yourself. This only contributes to conflict. You do not have anything to defend. When you center in forgiveness, you have nothing to fear and nothing to defend. You choose harmony over knee-jerk reactions and learn to let go of the drama. Instead, focus on self-care, having fun, and learning to appreciate those around you. TIP: Use the mantra, “I choose love over fear. I don’t need to defend myself.”

Forgiveness teaches us that it isn’t personal. Your dad’s old-fashioned perspective and your mom’s tendency to criticize are not about you. It is about them. Everyone’s point-of-view is informed by their history and the principles they have derived from their experiences (often in the most difficult times). Even if you don’t get it, you can remember that they are doing the best they can. You have the power to make an impact by demonstrating values that create happiness, warmth, and unconditional love. TIP: Whenever you feel triggered by something someone says or how they behave toward you, remind yourself, “This is not about me.” Let that lighten the burden of the perceived offense.

Forgiveness shows us that healing is always possible. Have you ever heard the adage, people don’t change? The truth is we change all the time. The transformative balm of forgiveness heals wounds and provides new ways of relating to others. Not only is this possible—it is happening all of the time. Forgiveness proves that we can actively participate in our evolution instead of unconsciously walking the same familiar, painful path. It shows us that we need not wait for a great epiphany to fall out of the sky a la It’s a Wonderful Life. We can intentionally choose to heal for ourselves and our loved ones. TIP: Make forgiveness practical. It is not an esoteric process. Start by asking yourself why you want to forgive. Write it down. Reflect on your ability to choose forgiveness and liberation over the hurt in every moment!

This time of year may not be your favorite. It certainly wasn’t always mine. But, even in the presence of increased stress, we have a chance to embrace what is. Have a little fun, and try something different. And, if you’re willing, appreciate the opportunity to deepen your self-awareness and practice forgiveness as you go.