Written By Rev. Jack Elliott |
“One powerful way to honor our ancestors is to embody the principles they taught.” Iyanla Vanzant.
As the year comes to an end many of us are meeting with family to celebrate the holidays. Often, this “tradition” is filled with anxiety and carried out in fear of the consequences if we don’t participate. If this is true for you, I encourage you to do something different. This year, choose to be with those you truly want to be with–and when you want to be with them–rather than those you feel obligated to be with. You might ask, “Rev. Jack, how dare I make such a choice?” My answer, your self-esteem depends on it.
This is the season to stand in your truth; put yourself first, then others. If you know that a certain relative seems to always enjoy putting you down, and then stay away. I remember having to do this with my own Mother. The first few hours of any visit home were joyous; it was truly good to see one another. But then on the second day, her shadow persona seemed to surface. We’d find ourselves arguing over my grades at school, my choice of friends or how I spent my money; or she’d complain that I was spending too much time visiting my local friends rather than spending time with my family. Finally, I reached a point of realization where I knew something had to change, or I could never go home again. I called it “my personal emancipation.” I took control over my own destiny.
Once I was out of college, I decided it was no longer appropriate to “sleep over” at my parent’s house. Yes, it was extremely hard to carry out that first year, but by year two, a new expectation had been set and it got easier and easier. I would typically take my folks out to dinner on my first evening in town. We’d linger over a wonderful meal at a family favorite restaurant, sharing stories and having a good time. My mom would “show me off” to her friends we spontaneously ran into, and I’d hear words of praise about me that she shared with them; things that she would seldom share directly with me. Then, my parents would go back to their house, and I was free to go out and meet up with my friends–without anyone to comment as to what time I came in that night.
As for the holiday itself, I learned to immediately volunteer to help–but only in the way that I wanted to help. For example, I loved pulling the Christmas decorations out of the barn’s attic with my step-dad. It gave us time to bond and chat. I also chose to handle the “outside” decorations, which gave me time to be alone with my thoughts; but more importantly, it kept me out of the house and away from the potential landmines of conflict that often occurred if I spent too much time alone with my mom.
On the occasion of other relatives joining us for the big holiday meal, I made it a point to engage the relatives I admired and respected in conversation; especially my elder grandparents, aunts and uncles. I’d encourage them to tell me stories of their life, traditions values and the principles that they lived by; the stories about how they got through the tough times. I learned so much from them; especially how they each honored their values, truths and the choices they made, without apology to anyone. Time with them was such a gift. It allowed me to avoid the relatives who asked year after year “Why aren’t you married yet? What’s wrong with you?” Or my favorite question, “Why would anyone want to live in San Francisco? I hear it’s just like a fruitcake, full of nuts and fruits,” followed by their inappropriate laughter and self-amusement at their own joke.
As I grew and matured, I found that I could stand in my truth, say what I believe, but no longer felt I had to defend my choices. I learned that emancipation is a process of evolution toward personal freedom. I realized that I was gradually embodying the principles of those elders I admired.
By the time my parents had passed away, I was truly emancipated. I came and went as I pleased. I no longer defended any belief I held. I had matured into the person I admired my elders to be. It was remarkable. As I stood in my own truth, I noticed the negative encounters ceased–even with my mom. The last few years with her were wonderful. When one of the naysayers would comment on my choices, instead of defending my choice or point of view I’d respond (with a compassionate tone), “Thank you, I know that was important for you to share.” I’d then smile, and move on.
Our greatest Spiritual calling is to know who we came here to be and to do what we came here to do. You are called to stand in your truth. You are called to stand for your values. Your ancestors have given you the principles to faithfully live in your truth. Honor them by honoring you!
Surround yourself with those you love and have a joyous holiday! Peace!
Rev. Jack is a Spiritual Life Coach. He was ordained in 1985 and aligns his ministry with the Centers of Spiritual Living. He serves as the President of the Board of Trustees at Heart and Soul Center of Light, in Oakland, CA. www.heartsoulcenter.org.