Tis the season to be jolly… Yes, it’s Christmas time. Schools are preparing to close, people are preparing for their vacations, and the malls are full of people trying to buy the perfect gift. It is time for cheer, gifts and celebration!
As I reflect on my Christmas experiences, Charles Dickens’s opening sentence in his book, A Tale of Two Cities, comes to mind, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Can I be honest with you? Christmas is work! As the mother of five children, I now understand the stressed look on my mother’s face every Christmas morning. My mother had a tough job trying to manage our expectations, so we wouldn’t be disappointed.
Now, my husband and I don’t make a big deal out Christmas these days. Our children are all grown up and so it’s normally a very quiet day for us. However, a few years ago, we decided to go home to Pennsylvania see my father for Christmas.
After a long day at work, with our winter coats and boots on we braved the crowds at the airport and boarded our flight to Philadelphia. My father picked us at the airport and on the way to his house he told us about the storm coming that night.
We woke up to 21 inches of snow. Yes, we had a white Christmas. It reminded me of my childhood and how much I loved Christmas. It was the best of times!
The next year my father passed away. It was difficult time me because my father and I were very close. If you asked my sisters, they would tell you I was his favorite child. However, my relationship with my father was very complicated. In fact, I spent most of the first half of my life hating my father.
Yes, I said hating…
When I was a young child, I loved Christmas. My sisters and I would spend months preparing our Christmas wish list. We would wait for the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Catalog to arrive. Yes, I said catalog. Before online shopping, we would flip through the printed pages of catalogs, instead of going to the store to purchase items.
The Christmas Catalog, better known as the Wish Book, was produced annually. The catalog was filled with glossy, colorful pages of the latest and best toys. When the catalog arrived, it was the talk of the neighborhood. Every kid was excited to scour through the pages.
My sisters and I would work out a system for marking our items. Then, we would spend the next two months pouring over the pages. I must have looked at the book at least 50 times before finalizing my list. Once my list was finalized, I would rewrite it in my best handwriting and present it to my mother. To make sure she got my list right, I would include every detail from the catalog, including the page number.
On Christmas Eve, we would decorate our tree, bake cookies and watch the news to get updates on Santa’s progress.
After dinner, we would place cookies and milk by the tree for Santa, put on new pajamas and go to bed early. We would get up early in the morning, wake up my parents and race downstairs to see what Santa had brought us!
After opening our gifts, we would put on our coats (over our PJs) and boots and go visit our friends in the neighborhood to see their gifts. It was the best time of the year, next to my birthday! It was the best of times!
The best Christmas I remember was when we spent Christmas in a hotel. My mother took my sisters and me to Philly and we spent Christmas in a hotel. It was so much fun! My sister’s and I rode the elevator, ran down the long hallways, and jumped up and down on the bed. I wanted to live in the hotel!
While we didn’t have a tree or cookies for Santa, my mother assured us Santa would find us and leave our gifts. It was the best of times!
On our third day at the hotel, my grandfather and uncle came to visit us. I remember they had a conversation with my mother while we played. When they finished talking, my mother packed our suitcase and we all went home.
At the time, I didn’t realize was really going on. To me it was a great adventure. Just like we would return to school after Christmas break, we had to go back to our normal lives.
As I grew older, I began to understand that it was also the worst of times. What I didn’t know as a young child was that my father was abusive towards my mother. I didn’t connect the dots until I was in the sixth grade.
One day I came home and instead of my mother being at home, my aunt was there. She told my sisters and I our mother was in the hospital and we were going to stay with her for a couple of days.
The next day we went to see my mother. She had some bruises but no one ever told us what happened and we didn’t ask. We just wanted her to be okay! We were very excited when she came home and life went back to normal.
Now, I am the oldest and I knew what happened. How? I overheard my mother’s sisters talking. You see, I would sit in the corner of the room with my book and pretend to be reading. After a while they would forget I was there and starting talking.
As I listened to them, my blood began to boil. My father was the reason my mother went to the hospital. Over the next couple of years, I then began to connect the dots. So, when my parents divorced I was not surprised or disappointed. While my sisters where very upset and blamed my mother, I was happy!
I hated my father for what he did to my mother. No matter what he did to try to make amends, I did everything I could to make his life miserable.
Now I know you are wondering, Kim how did you go from hating your father to a loving and caring relationship with your father? Well, I forgave him!
I was 22 years old when my mother passed away. My parents had been divorced for many years and my father had remarried. When my mother died, my father came and stayed with us. He took care of my sisters while I made my mother’s arrangements. No matter what I said or did, he never left.
Thus, I began to see my father in a different light. God softened my heart! Over the next 30 years, my father and I had the relationship I always wanted.
Why do we hold on to grudges when we know the adverse impact they have on us? Is it because we love the pain and anger we feel towards the person who has wronged us? Is it because we want to give control of our lives to someone else?
No! According to Psychology Today, “grudges come with an identity. With our grudge intact, we know who we are – a person who was wronged.” As the victim who was wronged, we receive sympathy, understanding and support.
To give up our grudges would require us to give up part of our identity. Grudges give us purpose and strength. When we share our feeling with others, they not only validate the injustice but also our anger and pain.
So why would you let go of your grudge? After all, you were wronged! Because holding on to the grudge can consume us. It raises our stress level.
Research from Emory University has shown stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease.
So how can you let go of a grudge? Forgiveness!
In his article How to Let Go of a Grudge, Travis Bradberry gives six steps for letting go of grudges. According to Bradberry, following these steps will free you from a grudge:
- Take control – Make a decision to let go of the grudge and take back control of your life.
- Make it for you – Shift you focus from the individual who wronged you to you. Remember, forgiveness is for you!
- Switch places – Try to see the situation from the other person’s point of view.
- Admit your feelings – Be honest with yourself about your feelings.
- Ask for help – Seek advice and support from others.
- Verbally forgive – When we speak forgiveness out loud, our brain registers the choice.
If I had not forgiven my father, my children would have never known their grandfather. My heart would have been hard and cool, and my relationship with my husband would have been very different.
Forgiveness does not mean you forget what happen. Nor does it mean you must have a relationship with the other person. Forgiveness is for your benefit.
Forgiveness is the gift you give to yourself!
Dr. Kim Moore, your guide to leading with confidence!
Dr. Kim Moore
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