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Merry Christmas: It’s Ok To Say It Don’t Let Others Steal Your Joy

Today I’m not going to discuss anything that has to do with fitness, nutrition, or health. Instead I wanted to sit down and simply write from the heart about what’s on my mind. With only a few days left before Christmas Eve I’ve got to admit I’m yet to be in the Christmas spirit.

I haven’t been able to put my finger on it completely but I believe it’s partly because like a lot of us I’m saddened by the tragedies, turmoil, uncertainty, and incivility that are nation is under these days. It’s hard to read the news or turn on the TV and find much to feel good about or be encouraged by.

Without question the tragedy in Newtown, CT has put our country in a state of mourning. I’m man enough to admit that I shed tears the day after when I sat down in my morning quiet time for prayer and devotion.  It’s hard to think about the pain and loss so many families will be dealing with this holiday season.

More after the jump…

Like many of you the only way I can explain it is an empty feeling in my heart. What in the world is happening I ask myself? Inevitably it seems we’re left with more questions than answers. As a people instead of turning to each other for comfort, prayer, and mourning, we see finger pointing and personal attacks in attempts to place blame somewhere.

It’s everywhere, in the news, on social media, you name it. People bashing one another over their position on things like guns and what should be done for the betterment of society. Anyone who doesn’t see that we’re increasingly becoming a nation deeply divided is willfully ignoring reality.

I hate to admit it but I see little hope in our nation solving its problems without the politicians and the folks alike going back to having respect for one another along with civil debate and discussion over the issues in attempts to find common ground. All the vitriol, hate, finger pointing and blame as people divide into “camps” is getting us nowhere.

Bottom line is I think many of us are keenly aware of what’s going on and it’s saddening. A lot of individuals are hesitant to say anything out of concern their beliefs will be deemed offensive, insensitive, or worse yet they’ll experience personal attack.

It’s hard to imagine but even the joyous greeting of “Merry Christmas” has now become politically incorrect. I experienced this first hand earlier in the week when I spoke the words to a cashier who looked at me with disdain and smugly replied “Happy Holidays.” It appeared I offended her so I smiled and replied “yes I hope you do have a happy holidays,” and walked away.

Granted I shrugged it off and wrote it up to someone having a bad day. Whether they were an atheist or of some faith other than Christianity never crossed my mind before I spoke the words “Merry Christmas.”

When and how did this become offensive? I don’t get it. Is greeting or leaving someone with a “Merry Christmas” now being offensive, insensitive, or disrespectful? If that’s the case then I guess I stand guilty on all accounts.

Yes, I am a Christian and by no means will I ever be ashamed of my beliefs. I don’t push my beliefs down other people’s throats and didn’t think I was doing so by saying “Merry Christmas.”

I don’t take offense to the religious beliefs of others or their right to have none at all and be treated with equal respect.

I see a parallel here between the war on Christmas that some people feel the need to wage and the practice of using vitriol and hate speech on other personal beliefs. It accomplishes nothing and doesn’t build mutual respect, but rather further division.

Deep in my heart I believe all that each of us can do is show love and respect for one another. We may not hold the same religious beliefs, the same political affiliations, the same views on what type of society we should have, etc. But you know what, that’s ok.

What’s made this country great is the freedom to hold your own beliefs, practice your own religion, and be granted with liberty from persecution. It’s why brave men and women years ago broke from a tryannical rule and established their own constitution, bill of rights, and their own country in the process.

Freedom….freedom to do your own thing, to believe in what you want to believe, to pursue a life of happiness and fulfillment (whatever that may mean to you) and have the right to do so as long as it didn’t infringe on the same rights of others.

Nowhere in this is there anything about your responsibility to ensure your beliefs and practices wouldn’t be deemed offensive to others.

Having respect for others doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they believe or their personal lifestyle choices. It’s simply called having respect for the other individual.

Granted, we do have laws and rules for what we deem as a people to be in the best interest of society. There’s a reason why you can’t go to the grocery store naked for example. But there’s a fine line here when we talk about things that don’t infringe upon the rights and well being of others.

Why is it that an atheist group, the ACLU or whomever can sue to bring down a nativity scene in a local community they don’t even live in? Earlier in the month I recall a story that made national news regarding this very thing in Ellwood City, PA.

I know this area well, grew up not far from the city and spent a lot of time there making sales calls when I worked for father after college. It’s an old steel mill town, lots of hard working, decent folks from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Much like many of the small towns built around industry and manufacturing in western Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio.

For over fifty years the community had put up a nativity scene in front of a local municipality building. The community did it, the people set it up, not politicians or the government. Nobody had a problem with it for years, that is until this year when a group from Wisconsin deemed it to be a violation of church and state and threatened to sue.

Somebody or a group of people in Wisconsin were somehow offended by something over a thousand miles away in another community. Am I the only one who finds this outrageously insensible? Let the good people of Ellwood City, PA make their own decisions on what they want to do in their local community.

There are those who will make the case that government was in essence endorsing a religion with the placement of a nativity scene on municipal property, but really? If that’s forcing Christianity down someone’s throat I don’t get it.

It’s Christmas folks, a time when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. A time of peace, love, and good will towards men. If you’re a believer in another faith or none at all, it’s a federal holiday, enjoy your time off doing whatever you please.

I hope you’re not offended by those who choose to practice their faith, put up a nativity scene, sing Christmas carols, etc. And please don’t take it the wrong way if someone greets you with “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”

Give the same concession and respect to people who celebrate Christmas in the same way you’d want them to do for you and your beliefs.

Personally I don’t think one needs to worry about offending someone so long as they’re not showing a lack of respect for an individual’s right to follow their own beliefs. At least that’s my opinion and how I’m going to put things in perspective moving forward. You may disagree and that’s ok.

Whether you’re a Christian or not, we can no longer allow the fear of political correctness or personal attack on individual beliefs (religious or other) to push one into a corner of silence.

There will be those who believe they can silence individuals with other beliefs by using indignation, hate speech, and personal attack. And you know what, they’ll get what they want as long as the other side folds and remains silent so not to offend anyone.

My objective as of now and moving into the new year is this. First off, I’m going to accept control of my own joy and happiness. As a country we’ve been punched in the gut with this most recent tragedy and there’s no denying the existing trials we face and those that appear evident in the future.

There’s evil in the world whether we like it or not. As a believer I’ll choose to look past the “here and now” and focus on what’s above and not below.

That will start with spending some quiet time over the next few days to pray and give thanks for all of my many blessings. To focus on being thankful. To be grateful for my wife Lina and the opportunity to spend our first family Christmas at home together.

To be thankful for a loving family and all that God has blessed me with. I believe that by shifting my focus to that instead of what’s going on around us in the “world” that I’ll be able to get in the Christmas spirit. And yeah putting on some Christmas music instead of the nightly news won’t hurt either.

In short I’m going to make a conscious effort not to let what’s going on around us steal my joy. To be bold in my faith and beliefs while being respectful of others and theirs. To not be concerned with being politically correct or attempt to make everyone happy.

To serve and honor a God I believe in and work to be a better husband, son, brother, employer, and friend of others.

It’s my hope that you’re able to do the same. Regardless of your beliefs that you’re able to focus on more joy, peace, and love for yourself and your family.

I’m grateful for you, my clients, followers of this blog, everyone who gives me the opportunity to teach, coach, and do what I’m most passionate about.

Best wishes and much love- Shane

P.S. feel free to leave your comments below. You may or may not agree with me and that’s ok. I respect that. I just wanted to write from my heart before Christmas 2012 and leave a testimony of what I was feeling at that time. Hopefully you can appreciate that.

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Category: Shane's Commentary.