Come late November, it’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” at least once a day. But as a service member spouse miles away from friends, family, and all that feels familiar, this might not always ring true.
HOLIDAY EXPECTATIONS AND RESENTMENT
As a young girl, holidays always felt so magical, and as a young adult, I was determined to replicate these magical traditions with my own husband and soon-to-be family. So, you can imagine my consternation when my husband’s mounting work responsibilities interfered with these plans time and time again. As I spent more and more holidays away from family, friends, and even him, unspoken resentment began to tinge the season with gray. Before I knew it, bitterness was building toward my husband for his profession, toward my family for not traveling as often as I would like them to, and myself for not being able to muster up the Christmas spirit. What I was harboring deep inside began to seep out and color the world around me.
GIVE THANKS FOR A LITTLE
It wasn’t until I stepped outside my self-pity and truly examined the world around me that I began to realize just how fortunate I was—even if certain holidays weren’t as I had dreamed. Making the conscious decision to give thanks for a little led to an abundance. It led to recognizing that this military life is only for a season and there are life-changing treasures along the way.
8 TIPS TO AID IN RELEASING UNFORGIVENESS AND EXTENDING GRACE
If you find yourself holding resentment toward yourself or others this holiday season, here are a few tips I’ve learned that aid in releasing unforgiveness and extending grace:
My family, friends, and spouse can’t read my mind—as hard as they may try. So it’s important for me to recognize my responsibility in constructively voicing my hopes, expectations, and needs.
Forgiveness often requires having hard conversations in a loving manner.
Others may not be aware of the offense until it’s openly addressed and some individuals may be more receptive of hard conversation than others, so it’s important to ask if they are open first.
Recognize that those who have hurt us have also been hurt themselves, which helps with extending compassion and seeing others as brethren rather than offenders.
Deep-seated hurt often requires unpacking the offenses with a trusted friend, mentor, or counselor—but true forgiveness is possible and powerful.
Choosing to see the other as a child of God, especially if they are a struggling child of God, makes forgiveness more tangible.
If we are holding on to unspoken or even unconscious unforgiveness toward ourselves, it is often difficult to extend lasting forgiveness toward others.
Lastly, I’ve learned that unforgiveness toward those that we hold in high esteem (parents, spouses, best friends, leaders, mentors, educators, and role models) is often rooted in placing their actions, right standing, harmony, or approval above our own as if their actions or behaviors are the determining factor in our personal mental and emotional well-being. Time and time again, this has proven unreliable and untrue. When we are able to recognize that these individuals are simply human—no matter their role—it’s easier to release the hurt and unforgiveness toward them and recognize our individual value despite the wrongdoing.
If you’re interested in additional holiday inspiration and reassurance that joy is available even when our loved ones are far away, enjoy this free excerpt from Volume III of Legacy Magazine titled “5 Practices to Cultivate Joy this Holiday Season.”
Raised as a northern girl, Abi Ray MS, LMFTA now resides on the southern east coast with her husband, daughters, and over-sized Airedale pup. As a licensed counselor, Abi Ray seeks to encourage and equip families in their personal narratives and creative expression. Her most recent venture includes founding Legacy Magazine, a print publication that celebrates life with service member families, couples, and spouses through personal, professional, and relational enrichment. Most days you can find her unwinding with her family or researching one of her favorite topics—neurobiology and trauma-informed care.
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