A road with colorful trees on each side. Caption states ~ there is a middle way.

The Middle Road ~ Social Grace During the Holidays

Rose was hoping the gathering with her family would be filled with peace and good cheer ~ just like all the images people were posting on Facebook. So, she bit her lip when her aunt’s eyes twinkled while pointing out that Rose’s ‘thunder thighs’ were calling out for an extra portion of pie. No one bothered to hide their snickering.

Then her father called out that everyone was to gather in the family room ~ now! He had money riding on the football game, and he told them that the whole gift exchange had better get over with pronto, so he wouldn’t miss the kick-off. Everyone knew it was best to move quickly when dad barked an order, especially after he had a few brandy old-fashioneds.

Her sister started handing out gifts and then immediately used the center stage to engage others to take her side over her brother-in-law’s opinion about what temperature the thermostat should be set at. This furthered their ever present bickering over who partakes in the most correct action on climate change and every other issue that they felt needed an audience to show-case their views.

Rose lost it. Unable to swallow her feelings for another moment, she ran to the closet, grabbed her coat, and unceremoniously gave them the finger as she slammed out of the house. Crying all the way home, she just kept mumbling ~ there has got to be a better way.

And there is. (But first, let me interject that most of us are not at the level of enlightenment where we automatically hold only love and forgiveness in our hearts when faced with the bad behavior of others ~ sometimes our own darker emotions become stirred and we need to deal with them in a healthy way). There is a middle road between stuffing our feelings and letting them build up to a point where they spill over into an act of rage.

Define the behavior and its affect. Name it out loud. It is the most direct, honest and brave course of action.

Suppressing emotions only makes them fester (sometimes to the point of illness). Engaging in battle only makes us feel guilty in the long run (sometimes to the point of illness).

To those who like to tease, I would say, “Dear Aunt, teasing is just a more socially acceptable way to insult another person. It hurts my feelings. I really don’t like it.”

To those who like to bully, I would say, “Dear Dad, ordering people around causes stress. We’re walking on eggshells trying to please you. It makes me feel anxious. I really don’t like it.”

To those who like to play the opportunist role to gain allies in their never ending quest to be right, I would say, “Dear sister and brother-in-law, by trying to make us take a side in your argument, it generates a tense atmosphere. It irritates me. I really don’t like it.”

Then follow-up with the truth, “I just want everyone to enjoy our time together, be nice to one another, and be at peace.”

Taking the middle road not only makes us feel better, but it is also an act of service. Communication gives people the information they need to make changes in their thoughts and behavior. When we calmly tell someone how their behavior disturbs us; it helps them to be more aware. The rest is up to them.

You may or may not get the result you ask for, but I guarantee it will make you feel like you did something to make the day better for all.

May you enjoy the holidays with peace and good cheer ~ Blessings Be!

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