So when I mention getting together with all your relatives for the holidays—who is that one relative or person that comes to mind? You know, the one that makes you visit all the typhoid clinics in your area in hopes of getting sick so you don’t have to attend that family event.
Do you enjoy their put-downs (“What, another break-up? Can’t keep a good man chained?”), the slams (“No job yet—gotta get off that couch!”), and sarcasm (i.e., rudeness)? A lot of it all in good fun and sometimes feebly funny, granted. But holiday after holiday of the same stuff, even though you know they might not mean anything by it? The repeat jokes?
Then one day, after you’ve hammered screws instead of nails into the wall and scared your cat with all the wild mutterings to yourself, you realize that just can’t take their negativity any more. You’re going to have to find some excuse not to attend this year’s holiday gathering.
So while I was thinking about this, I came across Louise Atkinson’s great article, How to Tame the Monsters in Your Mind: Experts call them ANTS – Automatic negative thoughts, and unless you learn how to stop them, they’ll ruin your life. Perfect. She writes:
“Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen has spent a lifetime studying how thoughts influence our appearance, energy and diet success. His studies have revealed that by flipping negative thoughts to positive, we can transform our lives for the better.”
Sometimes (a lot of times), we get so busy we don’t realize that we’ve let negativity into our hearts. When we’re around negative people, their negativity seeps deep into our being much quicker than we retain the positive interactions of someone else. You’d think the positive would outweigh the negative, but this isn’t so.
“Negative emotions generally involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly than positive ones… Thus, we tend to ruminate more about unpleasant events—and use stronger words to describe them—than happy ones.”
That’s what Alina Tugend has to say in her New York Times article, Praise Is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall.
Sarcasm, snarky comments, rude retorts, or general boorishness, hilarious though even you or others might find them, tend to sting and, unfortunately, the poison does last longer than it should.
Isn’t it strange how you can have twenty-three thousand persons tell you how beautiful, wonderful, sweet, gifted you are, but then, that one person, that one single person either treats you with disrespect or plain rudeness and you keep replaying those tapes in your mind?
There’s a way to speak the truth or to jest lovingly. Callousness and loveless acts quickly douse your warmth and are a waste of your time and sap your energy. Unless you’re on your guard, being around such people will drain you of your joy (if they ain’t happy, they resent your being happy), replacing it with hopelessness and despair. Unchecked, you become one of them. Just another sharp-tongued, soulless corpse.
So if you’re ready, dump the negatives. No, I’m not saying stop loving the negative people in your life (someone has to), just don’t take their meanness and “funny” jokes too seriously. If you can do something nice for them, do it. You don’t have to grovel or be a doormat for them to wipe their feet on. Embrace hope and move from darkness into light. I think Advent is one of the perfect times to do this.
How do you start to move forward? Here are some things that have helped me:
Acknowledging the problem. Why do they irritate me? Why do they control my emotions? And then with the help of the Holy Spirit, finding ways to replace the negativity with positive actions. It even meant putting someone on the back burner for a while, until I felt strong enough to see them again. Sometimes, it meant I just had to wake up and walk away—and didn’t go to that holiday party.
Taking up a new hobby or project. Immersing myself in doing something for people who appreciate me. You’ll be amazed at the amount of healing you’ll experience.
And practicing being happy. Because as believers we have every reason to be.
In time, I found that I had moved on, was happy and enjoying life, while they stayed the same. Not exactly, they had gotten worse—more resentful, unhappy, caustic, and even lonelier. Things I didn’t miss in my life any more!
Laughter heals and brings joy, and thinking about uplifting things and counting your blessings aren’t just clichéd practices—watch some fun and inspiring Christmas or other films. Maybe go and buy yourself something nice.
Now, it’s the Christmas season! Our family just watched one of our favourite Christmas movies, Scrooged with Bill Murray—definitely in our top 5 of the season! If you haven’t seen it, the ending is fun and cheesy and also thoroughly heartwarming. So put not just a little, but a lot of love in your heart! (But don’t just give it away like you did last Christmas!)
So who’s the miserable Grinch who steals your Christmas joy? What have you done to help yourself through the most wonderful time of the year?
If you want to know more about being joyful, ThM recommends joining Pastor Linzey’s Advent Bible Study and reading: Recovering Your Joy: An Advent Devotion.