Do the upcoming holidays find you facing conflict of some kind? Are you already bracing for some events, people and interactions you’re not looking forward to? Are you making plans you’d rather not make, simply to keep the peace?
Are there broken relationships in your family and the season is a painful reminder of something that’s been lost and seems beyond repair? Maybe you’re close with two family members or friends who are cool with each other, possibly even estranged. That’s a difficult triangle to be in, especially at this time of year.
Christmas is a very emotionally-laden season. How do you not get caught up in the drama of Christmas conflict? How do you get more peace?
Over the next month I’m going to share with you daily tips and encouragement for having your most peaceful holiday season ever. I want to share with you some ideas for dealing with competing values, beliefs and traditions, how to deal with differing priorities about attending social obligations; why and how to focus on “small wins” in difficult relationships over the holidays, and how to cultivate a mindset of peace and conflict resolution. I also want to share with you hope, compassion and some of the Christmas miracles I’ve experienced over the years.
So let’s get started! Each year in my home I celebrate my German heritage with an Advent wreath. This is a round wreath of pine greens and four tall, red candles. This traditions dates back to 1859 when a Lutheran minister covered a wagon wheel in pine boughs and candles so that children in an orphanage could count down the days until Christmas. The season of Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas. The candles mark the period of preparation before Christmas. Advent is about preparing for the Christmassy atmosphere.
I want to talk about this idea of preparation. One of the most popular Christmas hymns is “Joy to the World.” We sing, “Let every heart prepare him room.” Just as a family prepares for the arrival of a new baby, in the Christian tradition people prepare their hearts for the coming of the Christ Child. We prepare our homes with extra house cleaning, the preparation of food and baking, the preparation of gifts and decorations. We might prepare internally for the season by way of reflection and stillness; going to church and reading devotional material. In the same way, I want to suggest that our preparations for Christmas need to include preparing a mindset for peace and conflict resolution at Christmas.
In my Conflict Resolution workshops one of the key principles I underline again and again is that in any circumstance or situation, the only thing we can ever really control in our mindset. Our own attitude, our own response, our own self. I don’t know what your Christmas is going to hold. I don’t know what my Christmas is going to hold. I do; though, have two tips for how I’ve learned to prepare a mindset of peace and conflict resolution at Christmastime.
First, listen to the story you are telling yourself about Christmas. Does your story go like this? “Christmas is hard. It’s painful, it’s lonely. I’m so jealous of other families.” “There’s a family member I have to put up with.” “Christmas dinner should be fun… my sister and I always clash.”
If you want more peace, what ever story you are telling yourself about Christmas and conflict, change the script to “I want to see the season differently this year” and set an intention to have a different mindset. You develop a mindset of peace and conflict resolution when you set the intention for that. When a negative story starts to play, recall your intention and reset it. Tell yourself, “I want to see things differently. My Christmas preparation begins with wanting more peace this season.” And have some expectation for that! Tell yourself, “I will have more peace this season. I will actively let things go so that they don’t rob my peace. I will make adjustments when scheduling gets crazy and threatens my peace. I will communicate in advance if I think that tension is rising.”
Don’t worry about the details of how to do those things yet. Remember, it’s only early December. It’s only the first week of Advent. Our preparations for having a profoundly more peaceful Christmas are just beginning, regardless of anything else going on beyond our control.
Second, listen to the story you are telling others about your upcoming Christmas. To have a mindset of peace and conflict resolution this Christmas, don’t engage in putting down people you are related to, you used to be related to, and especially any people you made babies with. Don’t make snide remarks about your ex at a Christmas party. Don’t vent about your family at the office lunch room. Don’t blab about your grievances and keep them alive. When a recurring scene or argument does play out again this year, do you want to be attached to it? Or do you want to be detached and have more peace? Set a new intention for a mindset of peace and conflict resolution. Be willing to see things differently. And change the story you are telling yourself and others about how this Christmas is or isn’t going to go.
By the way, do speak to a good friend, mentor, counselor, spiritual teacher or a conflict coach for the purpose of getting help and support, if that is what you need. That, is a constructive conversation to have.
If you or someone you know could benefit from tips and encouragement for a more peaceful holiday season please like and share this post. Leave a comment or question. You can also find me on Facebook and LinkedIn.