My family knows the answer is always the same. When the question is, “What do you want for Christmas?” my answer is, “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” Every time.
Then my daughters roll their eyes and my husband smirks and they think it’s just me being difficult. Who, me? Because of this, they accuse me of being hard to buy for. Go figure. Why don’t they know that I would be thrilled with some small item that comes from their heart – a cozy sweater, a pretty scarf, or a book I might enjoy?
But the answer I give, which my kids think is flippant, is honestly, truly, sincerely, what I would LOVE for Christmas.
And when I say, “Peace on earth, good will toward men,” I am not even talking about the whole world and all people. Oh, that would be great, but it might be too big a bite all at one time. I think we could simply start with our little corner of it. How about peace in the home? Peace in the office? Peace in the neighborhood? What about good will toward family? Good will toward co-workers or customers? Good will toward people we meet in restaurants or stores or libraries or other theaters?
Now, if some family members or former co-workers are reading this you might be tempted to say, “Really?! Who ARE you?!” And it might be followed closely by, “Aren’t you the one who could launch a verbal nuclear attack that could start World War III?”
Yes, in fact, I am that person. Or maybe I was that person. But none of us in our 50’s is really the same person we were in our 20’s or even our 30’s. Are we? Sometimes we mellow a bit, and sometimes we learn to think more about the consequences of our behavior before we act – sometimes.
I happened to have been born into a fairly large family where peace and good will were not something we felt towards one another every day. For a time in my formative years, they were rare commodities. It is possible that those early years formed my cynical and skeptical nature – qualities that served me well as a journalist and in some difficult board meetings over the years. But there is more than one side to every person, and I suspect that if we dig a little deeper each of us seeks some comfort and longs for peace.
Siblings that get along? This is hard stuff. It’s definitely hard in childhood and occasionally even harder in adulthood. So now, when discussions turn to politics and religion (where I am very much the black sheep in my family) and start to become acrimonious, I walk away. Not always, and maybe not often enough. But it’s a start. And once in a while after a gathering my husband actually congratulates me for keeping my mouth shut. Peace on earth.
With difficult people and situations in the workplace, I try very hard to be tactful while still being honest. This is sometimes challenging, and I will never be a “yes man,” but diplomacy is something I have worked hard to learn over many years. Good will toward men.
This does not mean that I am giving up on my firmly held opinions. It simply means that I have reconsidered the necessity of vocalizing them in just that way at just that time. Maybe there is something more important than making my point to people who are never going to agree with me anyway.
Remember back in the ‘90’s when the in-vogue saying was “what would Jesus do?” It’s worth reflecting on as we get ready to celebrate his birthday, and I am pretty certain there were many times he bit his tongue. Maybe not until it turned blue, like mine sometimes does, but I don’t think he always needed to put a fine point on every argument.
This is a huge challenge for my hot-tempered self. But you see, sometimes with age comes a little bit of wisdom. And I have realized that peace deserves to be treasured, and we can still care deeply for one another even when we disagree.
That’s a gift worth giving.