It is the time of year when friends and family gather around to celebrate the holidays. It is a time for joy. For some, it is also a time of stress. Last minute shopping, decorating, and cooking can take its toll. And then, there is that one family member (or maybe more) who is the proverbial thorn in the side. Or there is the co-worker at the Christmas party that draws the ire of all.
What can we do about the ones that get underneath our skins and are content to stay there throughout the holiday season? We can look to these words from Marcus Aurelius and use them to our advantage:
Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.Meditations 5.33
Peace on earth or at least in the family gathering starts with us. We have our own standards to maintain. We have the discipline that has guided us through the years and up to this point. Moments like these is what we have been preparing for. The only ball we should be dropping is the red one to ring in the New Year. We do this by being strict with ourselves. We don’t get goaded into the opposing ideologies that separates loved ones and adds tension to the holiday meal. We hold the line as the sovereign rulers of our minds and bodies.
What do we not do? We don’t hold others to the incredibly high standards we have set for ourselves. No, for them we must be tolerant. When it comes to a “good” life, we can lead by example rather than try to force others into compliance. This is the high road we must seek and stay on.
And yet, these words are easier to write than to do. Too many times, I have cast judgment on others. Too many times when my heart should have been full of peace, love, and happiness, it had been resentful, bitter, and arrogant. It has been those times when the foundations of all my progress had crumbled. I didn’t hold the line. Instead, I only expected others to hold it.
The standards I have set for myself are my standards and mine alone. We all have our own paths to follow. Why should I expect others to follow mine?
I am convinced that my way is the right way. It is only out of love that I would hope others adopt my way of thinking. Yet, if I preach love but don’t show love, then love is truly not in my heart. If my words do not harmonize with my actions, then I am nothing more than a hypocrite. Therefore, I must hold to the words I preach. Love, compassion, and understanding. Tolerance with others; strict with myself.
Convince them if you can. And if not, remember: the capacity for patience was given to us for a reason.Meditations 9.11
Patience. If differences arise during these festive gatherings, a healthy debate should be acceptable. But if it gets heated, we should remember our training and the purpose of the occasion in which we are gathered. Convince them if you can. Otherwise, be patient. Patience is a form of love we should express freely and abundantly.
May you have peace this holiday season. May it be merry and bright.