The other day I came across a meme in my social media newsfeed and it bugged me. Not because it asked me to share it or like it. Not because it was shaming me to do either of those things lest I be less Christian, without a heart, or positively soulless. But because of what it told me we are to do during the holidays.
The meme said: If you’re going home to an unsupportive family this holiday season, remember that your worth is not defined by what they say or how they treat you.
I commented on it. Not something I typically do and in light of the lack of sleep I’d gotten the night before, probably not something I should have done. Lack of sleep has a way of messing with the neurons firing in my brain and not lining them up with any remote sense of compassion that I do in fact possess. I said something along the lines of understanding and agreeing with the latter part of the meme but not understanding why someone would go ‘home’ to that kind of environment.
It wasn’t exactly what I meant though.
I wanted to be eloquent and kind and considerate. To be able to formulate a response of an appropriate length to this thing that I can completely relate to. And in the process, encourage anyone going to a ‘home’ like that to find the courage to move.
Because the season (this holiday one and every other day of the year) is not about enduring or suffering through. It’s about living.
Yet for those of us who have endured or suffered through that kind of holiday we have a hard time stepping away and finding something different. The greeting cards that besiege us during this time of year with the picture perfect families, designer strung decorations, and expertly wrapped presents are a mere wish and frankly, a punch in the gut.
Not everyone has those things. Our bows don’t tie themselves and when we do it, they end up a gobbled, tangled mess. It’s hard to see it through the wave of tears, but we know it didn’t end up looking like Martha Stewart had stopped by to help us prepare for the festivities.
And I get it. Like I said, I’ve been there. Awkward and sad yet hoping ridiculously that this time, this year, it will be different. Only to walk away frustrated and angry when it’s not. Instead it’s exactly like it was the year before and the year before that.
This morning while pausing as I typed this, I came across another meme. It’s a picture of Mother Teresa and reads:
Let no one ever come to you without leaving better & happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: Kindness in your face. Kindness in your eyes. Kindness in your smile.
I like that. I try to remember that kind of living each day when I’m around others. Some days, it works. Others, not so much. Yet here’s the thing I don’t get about that meme…
How come we don’t show that same level of kindness when we look in the mirror? How come we have to continue to endure and suffer the absolutely un-magical kind of holidays? Or any other day for that matter?
Matthew 19:19 says: And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (ESV)
I know many people who give and do so much for their neighbors. Shovel their driveway free of snow, take over cookies and treats, and offer what little they have to help someone through hard times. Yet these same people continually put themselves in situations with people who do not encourage, uplift, or show any love to them.
Enduring those kinds of situations is difficult. Separating yourself from them probably even more so. When you walk away from something like that, it’s like admitting that others don’t like you –even if DNA says they should. I’m not minimizing the pain and the challenge in walking away and finding something better. But this year, if you find yourself going ‘home’ to an unloving environment, I hope you find the courage and strength to give yourself a gift.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
This year, I hope you give yourself the gift of a true holiday season. Treat yourself to a day that doesn’t include being belittled, hurt, discouraged, and unloved.
Love yourself as you do your neighbor.