One of the biggest contributors to dysfunction in our relationships is pride. Seeing ourselves as better than we really are, thinking we have it all together, lack of willingness to appreciate others’ points of view and approaching life with an adversarial attitude rather than a collaborative one. I recently watched the musical version of “A Miracle on 34th St”. There’s a scene where Santa, while working at Macy’s, tells the shoppers where they can buy the gifts they are looking for. If Macy’s didn’t have it, he told them which store did. This was initially shocking to the shoppers and horrified Mr. Macy. Imagine if we lived in a world where everyone was working together to help one another rather than selfishly trying to hoard all the good for ourselves?
How does this relate to our relationships and enjoying healthier holiday gatherings? Think about the issues you may have with family members or friends. On some level do the issues have something to do with pride? Let’s say I go to someone’s house for dinner. I dread going. I think they are snobbish and all they talk about is their vacations and cars and things. If I step back for a moment and look at what is really going on, who has the problem? Me! I am likely jealous of their beautiful home and the excess money they have to spend on the finer things in life. To make myself feel better I tear them down. A healthy shift would be to celebrate their good fortune with them. The distribution of money is not equal in this world. That is a reality I must accept. I can own feelings of sadness that I don’t have as much as they do, then decide not to let that sadness morph into jealousy. I can keep tabs on my sadness. When it pops up, I again notice it, take a deep breath and accept reality. I can ask myself if I want to let jealousy take over and ruin our relationship. When I am direct with myself and aware of both my emotions and my choices, I tend to make decisions that promote healthy connections.
We don’t always agree with the political views, parenting techniques or life styles of others. Our tendency is to build up walls with people when we don’t see eye to eye with them. This is an adversarial, pride motivated stance. Our job is to notice it. Notice the emotions you feel when you are around certain people. Holiday gatherings provide awesome opportunities for us to exercise this part of us. Are you feeling some version of sadness, anger or fear? Maybe you feel threatened when someone else doesn’t agree with you. There’s space in this world for differing opinions. Accept that people do not have to agree with you. If we let go of our pride that fuels the hatred between philosophies we could perhaps live in peace and acceptance.
I think it stretches us when we are around people who have different views or who challenge our jealous tendencies. So, the next time you encounter your own pride, notice it. Be aware of your emotions and the thoughts around them. Ask yourself if you are benefitting by hanging on to your pride. Does it promote connection or create separation? Take a deep breath. As you exhale, visualize the pride and icky feelings exiting your body and mind. Then inhale deeply and soak in compassion, love and acceptance of others.
Your work in this area is not dependent on others. If no one around you is practicing this, that’s their issue. You are responsible for your actions, attitudes and words.