Today is Sunday, December 22, 2013.
Chances are, if you have kids or if you are a teacher or a university student, your vacation has already begun. If you’re in business, you may not have the whole week off, but you’ll hopefully have a couple of days, at least. If you’re in retail, you’re up to your eyeballs in work right now, and will have to endure at least two more days of total chaos before a brief respite, then you are looking at facing customers with returns.
If you’re like a lot of Americans, you are planning to get together with family and friends sometime this week, whether you are Christian or not. And chances are, you’re going to have to talk to Uncle Jake or Aunt Sally, or some other relative whom you don’t talk to that often. In so many families, there is at least one person whom you consider opinionated, ornery, obtuse, inane, irrational, intolerant, stuffy, stupid, superficial, pedantic, prejudiced, pompous, contrary, controlling, or… just plain weird. Right? There’s always somebody. And sometimes, they’re really nice people until they get into the same room with just one other person in the family. Of course, they’re probably smart enough not to see much of each other, but somehow, Christmastime is the one time of year when they just can’t avoid it.
And what do you or others in the family argue about? Well, what don’t you argue about? If you’re a young person, you are probably wary of those who will criticize your lifestyle choices or tell you that your major field at university is a big waste of time. If you’re single, you will be reminded of just how unhappy you probably are because you’re not married. If you’re newly married, you will be quizzed on when you’re planning to have your first child. If you’re out of a job, you will be asked over and over what you’re doing now. If you’re older, you may be a little disappointed that the young people are spending more time fooling around with their electronic devices than talking to you. The conservatives in the family will argue with the liberals. People will disagree over all kinds of things: taxes, politics, religion, race, and gay marriage. They will argue about the state of the economy, the nation, the education system, or the environment. Gifts will be exchanged and some expectations will be dashed. Couples will argue about money and sex. Young people will argue with their parents about curfews. Little kids will argue over new toys. People will drink too much and spill secrets or go ballistic. Pretty soon people are making those “You always…” and “You never…” statements.
Recently, I revisited Kimberly and Foster Gamble’s website called The Thrive Movement. There, you can watch a neat video for free about some of the things that are going wrong in our world and some ideas about what can be done. They put out a blog, as well, to help people with more mundane, day-to-day issues. Their latest blog entry has some interesting ideas for avoiding those big blowups at the holiday dinner table.
Their advice is to try to steer the conversation toward general principles and values, rather than politics and religion. Specifically, they urge us to find things that you can agree on with as many people as possible. Focusing on the things you have in common with others, rather than the things that tear you apart, is a good discipline. Here are their ideas for “trans-political” discussion topics.
Try discussing general principles such as honesty, fairness, being able to stay safe, having access to healthy food, or being free to believe and say what you want. Based on whatever values you find in common with others, what would you do to help the world if money were no object and you were “fully empowered to accomplish your vision”? One principle that the Gambles have found that nearly everyone can agree on is something they call the “non-aggression principle.” This is a situation where nobody gets to harm or steal from another. Whatever principle you decide to discuss, you may find that the conversation is much more meaningful and much less contentious this year, because it is based on principles and not political or religious beliefs.
Happy Holidays with the family! 🙂
P.S. At the Thrive Movement site, you can watch the video that they created for free. It’s a little over 2 hours long, so grab a cup of coffee or some popcorn and settle in. Click on the link to the “free DVD” right under the word “home” on the main page in the upper left-hand corner. You can watch it online without having to enter your email address.