September 28, 2023

Creating Peaceful Holidays Despite Intense Personalities All Around

Christmas time is a season of bustling about; rushing here and there, battling traffic, making our way through crowded stores; and mixing with different kinds of people at social events. While these moments can be fun and joyful, they can also annoy us at times.

“Peace be with you,” is a common mantra around Christmas and Chanukah, but what does that really mean? Happy, peaceful times of togetherness take a concerted effort from each and every person. Here are a few gentle reminders for how to keep the peace and prolong the joy this holiday season and always:

Know your boundaries. The issues of boundaries can be confusing when strong personalities come together. Boundaries can be physical (invading someone’s space, touching too much), or verbal (talking “for” someone, talking over someone, talking *about* someone when they’re present, etc.). They can be emotional – for example, if someone chooses to have a temper tantrum instead of letting you enjoy a quiet moment.

Being aware of your boundaries is being aware of others and what belongs to them, and respecting that. It could mean respecting someone else’s minute of quiet to complete a task; respecting their opinion on an issue that holds importance for them; respecting their moment of recognition for a job well done; respecting someone’s opportunity to master a new challenge without assistance or correction. Letting our children learn to parent their own children, in their own way and without interference, is also a question of boundaries. So is being aware of the “house rules” at relatives’ homes, and abiding by them.

Boundaries are never completely clear, and the art of respecting others’ boundaries is tricky and forever imperfect. The key to getting better at it (without becoming completely cold and distant) is to simply observe, and be aware of, the boundaries of others, and recognize when we have ventured over the line, and how we can do better next time.

Stop dehumanizing humans. The next time you find yourself in bumper to bumper traffic, cursing the idiot who got into the fender bender, or flipping off the truck that got in your way – try to remember: the person who just got into an accident is someone’s mother, or father, or best friend. It could have easily been yours. Maybe they were on the way to the hospital to visit a sick relative, and not thinking clearly due to worry or fatigue. Maybe it was the mom of a small child who threw a toy in the back seat just as another car was changing lanes. Maybe the guy driving the truck is trying to get back to work on time because he’s worried about them docking his pay and he needs the money to feed his family.

It’s easy to point a finger at “that jerk” fumbling around with his shopping cart and blocking us from getting to the bananas as quickly as we would like. It’s easy to get angry with a bratty little kid who’s making a big racket at the restaurant where we’re trying to enjoy a meal. But we should remind ourselves, how would I feel if this were my “brat?” A little patience and a lot of humanity goes a long way in creating a more understanding and forgiving world for us all to commune in peace.

When at holiday gatherings, steer clear of “charged” topics. So much controversy is present in the news today that it’s easy to upset someone with a carelessly placed remark. Even if it’s an issue you feel passionately about, such as politics or how to raise children in today’s world, there’s sure to be an opposing view point held elsewhere around the table. Furthermore, we must recognize that we are all not on opposing teams, as the hyped-up media would have everyone believe. Most people, regardless of their personal beliefs, want the same things: Love. Understanding. Acceptance. To love, and be loved. To take care of our children and have enough for our families.

A good rule of thumb to keep gatherings friendly is to simply steer clear of strongly stated and strongly held opinions. Light, conversational topics that promote holiday merriment include funny stories and clean jokes, conversations about a recent outing or vacation, or suggestions on where to enjoy some great entertainment or sightseeing.

It goes without saying that any story or joke designed to humiliate, embarrass, or disparage someone, should be avoided.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. While this article is clearly about “the small stuff,” the real key to enjoying the holidays is to simply keep a healthy and balanced perspective. We can practice being benevolent souls, but that’s just all it is – practice. No one is perfect, and we cannot hold ourselves, or others, to unattainable standards and expect to be happy.

To “not sweat the small stuff” means to not worry about what others think about us; not fret about who we may be offending or who has offended us, and so forth. So perhaps the real secret to enjoying happy holidays with family and friends and others met in our travels, is to be aware of how we treat others, but not let the occasional slip-up ruin our good time. People are people, and Christmas is a time to appreciate each other for our wonderful qualities – humans just being human, loving each other, and surviving together– perfectly imperfect and beautiful.

Peace to you and your family this holiday season!


Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is by no means intended as medical advice. If you are experiencing health problems or physical discomfort of any kind, please consult with your physician.


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