Living in the Midwest, I’ve already seen the first snowfall of the season. There’s a nip in the air ushering in the twilight days of the year. With the encroaching close of the year, I’m confronted with many of the usual anxieties. There are final exams, holiday shopping, and food preparation, and a host of other responsibilities.
This year, there are also a number of considerations that I’ve never thought about before. Whose immune systems are particularly vulnerable? How do I stay on top of ever-changing precautions? How can I keep tempers from flaring when confined with family/roommates?
I’d like to spend time pondering the upcoming holiday challenges and try to let peace reign within me amidst the strife of the season. While not always easy, there are a few virtues, or good habits, that can help equip us to share joy and peace with those we love during the holidays. Here are some that I feel the holiday season invites us to practice:
Charity allows us to see the beauty of caring for others and that a loving God is active in our lives. Spiritually speaking, it allows us to do things not only well, but to do things with love and zeal.
For instance, while I love helping my parents decorate the home for Christmas, there are also other, less enjoyable chores that take up a lot of time around the holidays that I can help with. Charity happens in the small tasks, even the mundane and monotonous ones.
Charity allows me to focus on the needs of others rather than on my own worries and puts me in the spirit of the holiday season.
Living with gratitude means acknowledging the good in our lives and showing our appreciation for it. There have been many times I’ve looked at the amazing people around me and felt dismayed that I don’t have what they do. I look around at the musical talents of others, and can see the beauty in them, but also can be moved in another way — with self-reproach and even jealousy.
But during the holiday season especially, it’s important to move beyond envy and grow roots into a garden bed of contentment. Instead of fretting over what is not ours, we can examine what is already good and beautiful about our lives. In talking with family members back home, updates on old friends reach my ears. It’s always endearing and even nostalgic to hear what’s going on in the lives of friends back home. They are worth celebrating!
“You are a strong-willed person,” I’ve been told. That’s really a nice way of saying, “You’re stubborn.”
Docility is a virtue that allows us to be open to the insights of others who have more experience. This doesn’t mean you become someone who accepts everything you hear. But it does mean you’re willing to listen to others’ experiences and learn from them. Perhaps the biggest obstacle (at least for me) is doing something the way someone else has suggested.
Maybe you’re trying to prove a point to a loved one. Or maybe while visiting your parents on holiday break, you’re subtly trying to prove to them that you’re independent and capable. Either way, docility challenges us to do something apart from our selfish choices. We all have our own habits and idiosyncrasies. But it can be immensely beneficial to learn from the wisdom and the ways of others. It’s a perfect virtue to work on deepening during the holidays.
Regardless of personal busyness, the needs of others don’t vanish. There are numerous ways to show generosity toward those who need it in our lives. It might take the form of a charity bake sale, donating to a good cause, or devoting time to consoling those who need it.
For me, being generous may be forcing myself away from what I want to do, like reading a book, and giving my full attention to those who seek it of me. When a friend stops by to talk, I try to set my phone down, step away from what I’m preoccupied with, and completely focus on those around me. Generosity can take a variety of forms. Don’t be afraid to give a bit of yourself when the opportunity comes up.
Developing patience has taught me how to work better with others and how to pursue long-term goals without becoming discouraged.
Patience is a cornerstone for any community, whether it be a family or a large body of like-minded people. Growing in patience helps us avoid needless arguing with loved ones, something good to keep in mind especially over the holidays. I’ve gotten pulled into plenty of conversations at parties I probably could have done without. But, having patience means more than acting politely. It means accepting the situation and being engaged.
Patience, like many of the other virtues I’ve pointed out, is geared toward selflessness. It reminds us that we all have human weaknesses. We need to be willing to cut others some slack when they need it. I know that during especially long and hard days, I can be short-tempered. We all have flaws, but we can work to see past people’s shortcomings. I think we can all relate to those moments in our lives when we feel unprepared or simply sapped of our energy. We need to have patience with ourselves and others in life as a whole.