In the United States, Thanksgiving is celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday of November. It is a custom going back to the 17th century when immigrants and those native to this land celebrated together with a feast. The tradition has continued for about 300 years.
Yesterday, while teaching a class on the psychology of forgiveness, I mentioned that next week the students likely will be getting together with family and extended family. Some of the students rolled their eyes, others groaned (as civilly as they could within a classroom setting, but the pain was obvious).
So, how can we avoid the “family dreads,” the restless, uncomfortable feeling of being face-to-face once again with those who have caused hurt and toward whom there may be some resentment?
Here are three suggestions:
1. First, acknowledge the pain. Do not run from it. After all, pain is a speedy little thing and always seems to be right behind us no matter how hard we run.
2. Practice now to see the inherent worth in that person. That person has a built-in value even when behaving badly. All people are unique, special, and irreplaceable. Start realizing that now before you pass the mashed potatoes to him or her.
3. Stop the pattern of treating this person as if he or she were invisible. Make eye contact. Smile (after all, this is a person who is special, unique, and irreplaceable). You need not say a thing. The eye contact and smile may be a good start.
And enjoy the journey that is life. That journey was never supposed to be pain-free. You can reduce the pain in you, and perhaps in the other, by recognizing the humanity in the other. They are not invisible to you. Show that you see them…and that they are special despite hurtful patterns in the past.