A Perfect Time of Year for Forgiveness

Happy Holidays!

Christmas is my favorite holiday. Bright lights. Cheerful, familiar music. Fresh baked goodies and the earthy aroma of cedar and pine. The crispness in the air. I love it all. Perhaps, most of all, I love spending time thinking about others. What can I 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 time of year is about forgiveness. We have the chance to acknowledge the people in our lives and, if only for a moment, choose connection over separation.

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. I should hold on tightly to my certainty that the people in my life whom I avoid all year because I choose judgment over relationship are still trying desperately to piss me off…rather than doing the best they can. How can they be so blind? I should wonder.

I approached life this way for many years. Then I forgave. And what once seemed righteous suddenly appeared unimportant. Unexpectedly, it seemed as if I had a choice. I could create and define a system, a world, a family that was working against me. Or I could see the potential in it all. I could imagine that, maybe, just maybe, we are all doing the best we can, and that is good enough. I could see that when I chose to be a part of the whole, I experienced joy over indignation.

That said, the holidays can be a difficult time for people, including me. We are expected to spend time with people whose company we might not enjoy. We are enjoined to spend money we might not have. Not to mention all of the people 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 can challenge us to stay centered.

If you feel impacted by the demands of the season, embrace it. This is, after all, out of your control. Why not have a little fun? Let other drivers go ahead of you and wave authentically as you do. Try smiling at everyone in 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 a few years of meeting the demands of the holidays with a little joyful irreverence.

We can also use this time as an opportunity to strengthen our practice of forgiveness.

Here are four reasons for using the “holidaze” as a valuable and sacred period for tending your own hearth (and heart) with the greatest gift of all: forgiveness.

  1. Forgiveness is something that enables us to cultivate the valuable skill of empathy—meaning that we don’t just expect others to respect and understand our views, but we make strides toward respecting and understanding theirs. In valuing inclusion, diversity, and acceptance above all things, we also don’t have to revert to the game of “Well, she/he started it,” because we understand that empathy is a candle that burns brightly in our hearts and has the power to catch everything else in its openness and warmth. TIP: If you find judgment ruling the moment, ask yourself, “Am I living my values today as I am challenged to understand views different than my own?”
  2. Forgiveness promotes a sense of beautiful fearlessness. For many people, the holidays might bring up stress and fear, because they have no idea what storms are brewing beneath the surface will suddenly erupt. The unknown and unknowable scare us. We cannot predict the outcome, and therefore, the impact in our lives. When we are reacting to the innocent comment of a parent or other relative makes, we are often responding to defend ourselves. And, as we know, when we defend, we contribute to the conflict. In fact, we might be instigating it and not even realize it. When we center ourselves in forgiveness, we have nothing to fear and nothing to defend. We choose our own harmony over knee-jerk reactions, and we learn to let go of fear. This means we can focus on self-care, having fun, and truly enjoying the people around us. TIP: Use the mantra, “I choose love over fear. I don’t need to defend myself.” Especially in charged moments!
  3. Forgiveness teaches us that it isn’t personal. For example, your dad’s offensive perspective or your mom’s tendency to criticize you is not about you. It is about them. Everyone’s point-of-view is informed by their experiences and the way they best know how to react. Even if you don’t get it, you can remember that everyone is simply doing the best they can. You have the power to make an impact by demonstrating values that create happiness, warmth, and the demonstration of unconditional love. TIP: Whenever you feel triggered by something that someone says or how they behave toward you, remind yourself, “This is not about me.” Let that lighten the burden of the perceived offense.
  4. Forgiveness shows us that healing is always possible. Ever heard the adage, “People never change?” Many of us even apply that to some of the stubborn family members we know, but the truth is, people change all the time. The transformative balm of healing can mend old rifts and wounds, and to show us that new ways of relating to each other are not only possible—but they happen constantly. And that starts with us. Forgiveness also shows us that we can directly partake in our own healing instead of unconsciously perpetuating harm. It shows us that we need not wait for some great epiphany to fall out of the sky a la It’s a Wonderful Life. We can consciously choose to heal for ourselves and our loved ones. TIP: Make forgiveness practical. It isn’t 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, above all, appreciate the opportunity to deepen your self-awareness and ability to forgive.