Christmas Stress

Cutting Out the Christmas Conflict

I don’t think there is any other time of the year when we are faced with intense conflict than at Christmas time. While we sing about it being the most wonderful time of the year, would you say that’s your experience?

If it really is the happiest season of all, why do the mental health statistics reveal December has the highest suicide and depression rates than any other month of the year?

In fact, SAD—Seasonal Affective Disorder—and depression medication needs soar during the holidays.

Next, let’s address the family Christmas letter. They’ve reached a whole new level of miraculous! Every family looks picture-perfect, and the accounts of their accomplishments are ovation-worthy!

I mean . . . someone’s kid . . .

  • Found a cure for cancer
  • Another walked on the moon
  • Another ushered in world peace
  • And the youngest discovered the fountain of youth

Sadly, while most Christmas letters appear picture-perfect, divorce attorneys report that their busiest season occurs around the time most of us are putting away our holiday decorations.

Another challenge surrounds family time and feasting during the season.

Commercials give us the impression that dining tables are loaded with so much food we need more counter space. And as we gather around the table, there’s an abundance of love and laughter to go around.

But most of us also live with unresolved family conflict, and the drama of getting together is often exhausting.

Additionally, according to our nation’s poverty and homelessness reports, there’s been a 90 percent increase in food assistance requests and an 80 percent increase in demand for food pantries and soup kitchens in recent years.

This or That?

Truth be told, most of us long to enjoy the Christmas season without all the conflict. That longing leads us to believe that if only THIS OR THAT were different, the season would be wonderful.

However, we don’t have control over the external “THIS OR THAT,” whether it’s a . . .

  • Person
  • Place
  • Memory
  • Circumstance

So we come down to two options:

  1. Keep wishing for something different (which we believe will lead to something better)
  2. Choose the greatest gift we can give ourselves and others—which will always lead to what’s best
(Photo Courtesy of Freeimages)

By nature, I’m an idealist.

I have lived believing in the “if only”; if only this or that were different, my hopes and dreams would be accomplished. We can waste years believing in if onlys, but the good news is that we have a third option.

Courage . . .

If you want to get rid of holiday havoc once and for all, here’s your answer and your challenge.

It has nothing to do with . . .

  • Money
  • Marital status
  • Where you live
  • What you do

It has everything to do with one quality—the development of courage.

  • Courage is moral fortitude—a willingness to persevere, face fears and difficulties with an internal resolve to be vulnerable, honest, kind, and willing to change.
  • Courage expects there will be trouble in life, times of discomfort, difficulties that will require asking for help, reaching out, letting go, or standing alone.
  • Courage doesn’t expect others to change; it requires us to reframe our ideals and expectations into what is possible, what is realistic, and what is right.

How to Cultivate Courage

Here are a few examples of how to cultivate courage every day, not just the holidays.

  1. Learn to apologize: Saying “I’m sorry. Please forgive me” is an act of courage. It requires us to sacrifice winning the argument or being right in order to humbly prioritize real peace with others. Perhaps this holiday, an apology is the greatest gift you can offer a family member or friend.
  2. Learn to be yourself: With courage, we can discover who we are, accept our imperfections and needs, ask for help, and offer support. Whether or not anyone is taking notes, you are courageous when you do what is right . . . regardless.
  3. Learn to take responsibility: Courage doesn’t blame, reject, judge, depend on better circumstances, or expect others to be different. Courage takes responsibility for oneself and one’s own happiness.
  4. Learn to let go: Courage doesn’t hold us hostage to the choices of others; it frees us to make our own choices and release others. Courage forgives before the other person apologizes. Courage accepts the differences of others, letting go of how I would have done things. Courage doesn’t require agreement; it values the person more than his or her choices.
  5. Learn to serve rather than be served: Courage doesn’t count or keep score; it serves without condition. Courage says, “I’m willing to help you regardless of what I receive. I’m willing to go the extra mile regardless of what you choose.”

The single greatest act of courage that you can perform this holiday season and in your daily life is putting your faith in God.

Courageous Faith

Faith in God is an act of courage.

Faith in God admits that we have a limited perspective on the trajectory of our lives, the motives and actions of other people, the pitfalls and purposes of each passing day.

Faith in God submits to the One who holds the times in His hands.

This faith is exhibited by the courage to stand in the promises of God when we are confused or hurting or cynical or scared to trust again, believe again, or try again.

The greatest example of courage is Christ.

God called His Son to leave the glories of heaven and descend to earth to live and minister among people who would betray and abuse Him. Jesus knew the stakes when He left His throne.

Courageous submission to the Father fueled Jesus to persevere, even as He was misunderstood by family, rejected by friends, and put to death on a cross, though He was innocent.

Courageous faith caused Jesus to lay down His life. He died—the ultimate act of courage—having faith in the power of resurrection.

Let Me Hear from You

Do you have the courageous faith of Christ? Are you willing to live as Christ . . . to die to self?

The only way you will enjoy the holidays—and every day, really—is to cultivate courage. In what way will your holiday season be different this year by choosing to cultivate courage?