My parents don’t guilt trip about holidays.
Not even a whiff of a guilt trip. If we can be together, awesome. But there has never been a requirement or even a request. Requests are the worst when you don’t want to do them. You have to either disappoint the other person, which feels terrible, or disappoint yourself. It’s not just holidays either. If I can make it to visit them, it’s a celebration but they have zero expectations of me. What’s awesome is that visiting family is super fun when you take the obligation off the table. Starting in college when Noel and I had two families in two different places, my parents were always the ones to say we could do Christmas whenever we could get there. It didn’t have to be 12/25. Once our family tossed in the towel on gift-giving, we no longer had to figure out when to celebrate Christmas. We just celebrate when we can be together. Plus, they are always teaching me that life is about enjoying moments and holding onto memories, not things. So gifts just aren’t important. I know, I am very lucky. I am reminded of that every year at this time by how many people are guilted by their families into participating in holidays in ways they don’t want to. And if they actually take a stand and push back, they feel terrible about it.
It’s just not healthy for relationships.
Guilt can turn into an annual emotional disconnection instead of bringing you closer, which I’m pretty sure these holidays are supposed to be about. So here is my advice. If you are the one making requests, setting up requirements, and emphasizing obligation, please stop. Just stop. Ask your people what they WANT to do during the holidays and how they want to participate in events and gift-giving.
Then, respect someone’s NO. Without guilt. Without further requests. Without passive-aggression. Without underhanded comments and talking behind their back. Meet them with love and acceptance. Practice that acceptance face. We can all read guilt dripping off an, “Okay, dear.” Think of it as a gift you are giving someone you love…your love without condition.
If you are the one susceptible to guilt, that is about you. It’s only when we believe we should do what the other person wants that it has power over us. If they told you that you should take out a half-million dollar loan and buy every cousin a brand new car for Christmas, would you feel guilty if you didn’t? Of course not. So put down that belief you accidentally picked up. Then, take a baby step. Put your foot down in at least one place this year. Say NO to the one thing you absolutely cannot stand and know is unhealthy for your mental and emotional well-being. You don’t have to be mean and yell NO. You can be kind and loving but still firm. It’s actually a very beneficial practice. NO isn’t a rejection of them; it’s a YES for you. And you can love them very much throughout the entire process.
We train the people around us how to treat us. If we do something different this year, it will be that much easier next year because you’ve done it and survived once already. You’ll be ready for the next step. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the holidays than by pulling each other closer emotionally with unconditional love and acceptance. Thanks, Mom and Dad.