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Keep Your Spirits Up Despite Annoying Family and Holiday Hassles

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It’s that most wonderful—and most difficult—time of the year! Today, some holiday-harmony inspiration from The Reverend…

Full disclosure. I don’t have any annoying family members. I know, it’s not fair. My kids aren’t married yet so I still have plenty of time to add a few. But I understand what it feels like to be around annoying people. And I can certainly relate to holiday frustrations. I could make a pretty strong case that no one on the planet is busier than a clergyman during the holidays. The opportunities for frustration are endless.

I reminded my assistant recently, “we can’t break our cadence during the holidays.” What I meant by that line is that we can’t lose our healthy spiritual rhythms when the chaos ensues. We have to stay in the wheelhouse of peace offered to us by our spiritual practices.

That is one of the amazing gifts of soul care. It offers an entirely different quality of life in the midst of stresses, challenges and frustrations. When we tend to our souls and live our lives from the inside out, we create an impregnable barrier for the holiday stressors that want to scale the walls of our hearts and tear us down.

My mind immediately races to a piece of wisdom from the Hebrew Scriptures (Isaiah 26:3) that has been immeasurably helpful to me over the years. I learned it in the old King James Version of the Bible, so here it is in that flowery form:

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Here is how it works for me—and how you can make it work for you, too…

  • First, transport your mind and heart to someone else in the thick of difficult exchanges or unwanted pressures. The life of faith tells us repeatedly to keep our minds upward, to keep our eyes on the prize, to elevate our vision. This is critical. We need to be able to go somewhere else in our hearts and minds to find strength and peace when people are driving us crazy.

If we don’t have some deep reservoir to draw from in those moments, we are hamstrung to contend with them and we are deeply impoverished to help others in need. I am thinking of the wise words of the Dutch theologian Henri Nouwen (1932-1998) in his book, The Way of the Heart: “Our first and foremost task is faithfully to care for the inward fire so that when it is really needed it can offer warmth and light to lost travelers.”

  • Second, make a ruthless commitment to seeing things through a prism of light. One of my grandmother’s most enduring legacies is her oft-repeated line, “Look for the good in others and you will usually find it.”

There has to be some commitment from the very outset that this season will not be stressful and chaotic, but instead “happy pandemonium.” That attitude is not whistling in the dark. It is making a giant mental shift to embrace the season and all that typically comes with it as a gift to be enjoyed. And then no one can steal that joy…not even Uncle Harry!

May we all express thanks over and over and over again during this season of lights. And may we all give thanks that this season only comes once a year.

Click here to purchase Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s book, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

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