As I sit here quietly on Christmas morning I feel somewhat hypocritical.  A week ago, I wrote a piece called an An Educator’s guide to the Holidays. I offered advice on how as educators we can most out of the holiday season, how to keep things in perspective, how to have empathy, and how to survive a time spent with family that can bring complex emotions to the forefront.

The sweet smells of Christmas, the nostalgia of a favorite ornament, the memory of a great toy can make one smile, longing for simpler time. Those visceral emotions I am realizing this morning can also mask pain, disappointment, anger, and fear.

I asked readers to observe their family, to smile, to do their best to be a family star by trying to make everyone around you a little happier during the  holiday season.

Great advice, but I must confess, as I examine my words I realize the advice offered was for me. I, like many, struggle during the holidays, the plethora of emotions can be too much. I have a hard time letting go of how that little boy I once felt. The times he was hurt, or disappointed, or fearful. You see, it is easy to see the big picture and offer sound advice from a distance, but when it is about us, when we are in it, not so much.

It is easy for me to offer you (the reader), my friends, my wife, advice that is basic, so practical that it would be foolish not to follow it. Yet, as I reflect in silence this morning I feel like a  fraud because I struggle to let go of past indiscretions, I struggle with guilt, I struggle with my insecurities, my anger. These emotions inevitably become magnified during the “most wonderful time of the year.”

That is not the end of the story though, because I know in my heart that all is not lost, I know in my heart I can do better, I know I will do better.  I have hope that I will someday be that holiday star, that servant leader, that sincere person, father, husband, son, educator that will make those around him better.  I know someday I will be “woke” enough to take my own advice, even if it seems preachy.

This is what has driven me to choose HOPE as my #oneword for 2020.

I hope to be better.

I hope to forgive.

I hope to make a difference, yet most importantly I want to offer hope to others.

Hope that they can:

  • Repair a damaged relationship that seemed lost can be fixed
  • Hope they can be thankful for what they have 
  • Hope they can forgive
  • Hope that they can reach their dreams
  • Hope that they find joy in the small things in life
  • Hope that they can be a good person
  • Hope that they can recover 
  • Hope that they can start anew
  • Hope that they can find contentment
  • Hope that they can find joy

Is it difficult to let go when someone hurts or disappoints you?

It is for me.  I want my pound of flesh; I want to protect myself from further pain.

It easier for me to become numb, to go robot mode, to just get by, just get it over with than to forgive, to roll the thought around a bit and look at it through a different lense.

But is it really a way to go through life?  Living with a dull film over our experiences as a way to avoid the sharp sting in the belly that comes with emotional pain?

Nike once had a slogan “No pain, no gain” which was a mantra for working out to obtain the body, or the athletic success that one desired. Nike’s catchy phrase could also be applied to life and relationships, especially relationships with those we care about.

How is it that our parents, our siblings, our loved ones can still hurt us?  Would they be able to hurt us if we did not have love for them despite all of their flaws?

We can not live our fullest with experiencing some pain.
Will our family members be the source of pain?
Will our students disappoint us?
Will our colleagues’s errs infuriate us?

I think in 2020 the answer for me is a resounding YES! Yet, I am starting to realize that these actions actually have nothing to do with me.

It is not personal.  My revenge, no matter how it is served, will never be sweet. The best I can do is be compassionate, be empathetic, and try to offer hope, to have hope.

We can hope for the best.  We can expect that this will be the year a difficult family member will come through, will not disappoint, will be the parent, brother, sister, grandparent we always hoped they would be.

We can hope this will be the year our students finally “get it”, the year they take their studies seriously, the year they are kind to classmates, the year they stop wearing their anger on their sleeves.

We can hope this is the year that the teacher who has become a liability will finally see the light, the year the passion returns, the year they become positive, the year they are open to improving, the year they make a difference for the kids that desperately need them.

How we see and treat others can actually have a profound effect on their actions.  Although we can not control our staff, our students, our sons/daughters, our mothers and fathers, when we expect the best, we may find that others will rise to the occasion.

This video that was shared by Larry Ferlazo which outlines a study by research psychologist Bob Rosenthal is a powerful, almost unbelievable reminder of the power of expectations.

We can not control others, but we can expect the best in them, we can offer hope, we can forgive when they make mistakes, we can choose to believe in them until they take their very last breath.  We can do our very best to help them to be the people we hope they can be, their very best selves.

I can guarantee we will be disappointed, but we can choose how we react. We can do our best not to take it personally, not to seek revenge, we can choose to think differently by offering hope and forgiveness, we can believe in them we can offer a path to redemption.

As for personal relationships, relationships with brothers, sisters, cousins, and of course our parents the solutions are not as easy, emotions with families, with those we love is more complex, more raw, and yes more painful.

The best advice I can offer you, check that….the best advice I can offer myself is to remember everyone is facing an internal struggle, everyone was a little boy or girl at one point in their lives, and each and everyone of us just wants love.

No matter how much you have been hurt, how much anger you have it is best to, as Elsa says, “Let it go” because at the end of the day when we hold on to these things we are only hurting ourselves.

I have hope for 2020, hope that all of us will be a little bit better at keeping things in perspective, I have hope that we will be a little happier, and a little kinder not only to others but to ourselves as well!

Happy New Year!!! Let’s make it a great one the choice is ours!!!!!  I wish you luck, and please offer the same to me because God knows I need it!