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Question:Every Christmas my family throws a big party (at their big house) and expects us each to bring expensive gifts we cannot afford. I have tried to explain this doesn’t work for us, but they keep doing it. I am really upset, hurt and offended by this. This year I finally stood up for myself and told them we would not be coming nor exchanging gifts with them. Now, they won’t talk to us. How can I get them to understand our position and be more understanding?
You will need to have a conversation with them to straighten this out, but you must be able to do this calmly, without going to a victim place, or attacking them, or you will only make things worse.
The first thing you must do is step back and make sure you are seeing this situation accurately and have let go of your upset feelings. You must have this conversation from a place of trust (feeling safe) and love (compassion for them). You must also get accurate about why you are hurt.
I learned a powerful lesson reading the Course in Miracles: You are never upset for the reason you think. You are not upset because they keep doing this every Christmas and aren’t listening to you. You are upset because of the meaning you are applying to their actions.
You probably think their behavior means they don’t care about you, they are selfish, they don’t understand your situation or they think they are better than you. But these ideas aren’t necessarily true. And these ideas only hurt you, because you are already afraid you aren’t as good as they are or as blessed. These fears already cause you pain. Their actions only aggravated the pain you have already chosen to suffer with.
You probably think their behavior means they don’t care about you, they are selfish, they don’t understand your situation or they think they are better than you.
Their actions hurt you because they hit your self-inflicted sore spot. You must understand you made up these sore spot fears (of not being as good or as blessed). They are coming from you and they are not real — and they are not their fault. These family members hurt you only because you take what they say or do, make it into a dagger and stab yourself with it.
You need to autopsy your thoughts about this situation and these people and check them for accuracy. Some of this hurt and upset is your own fault.
I am going to give you a Christmas gift today. This is a tool you can go through every time you get upset to give your thoughts a check for accuracy:
Download the "To Be or Not to Be Upset" worksheet on my website.
1. What did the person say or do?
2. What meaning am I applying to their actions? What am I thinking this means?
3. Is this really true? Do I have any reason for wanting to believe the meaning I applied is true? Does it do anything for me? Does it earn me victim status or sympathy love?
4. Could there be any other reasons they might be behaving this way? Something that is totally about them and not about me at all? What are they focused on or afraid of?
5. Are you diminishable? Can their actions, thoughts or words actually hurt or diminish you or make you less than who you are?
6. If you cannot be hurt or diminished (unless you choose to be) is there really anything to get upset about? Can you let this situation just be what it is without letting it hurt?
If you could see yourself and the other person accurately (as infinite, absolute, perfect students in the classroom of life) you would see there is nothing to fear and therefore no reason to ever be upset. Everything is a lesson to serve you and your value isn’t on the line.
(Unless you need to create victim drama to feel validated or get attention, but this would be a very immature choice and you would have to own that you are creating the whole thing to serve that purpose alone, and this has nothing to do with them.)
7. Are you really upset about what they did? Or are you upset because of the thoughts and fears (that you have chosen to create, own and live with) from you and their actions only brought to the surface?
8. Do you have any other options? Could you choose to experience this in a different way?
I realize you might not be ready to see this situation accurately. You may want to keep casting them as the bad guys and playing the victim, but I’m hoping you would rather feel better.
The path to feeling better is through love, forgiveness, honesty, accuracy, kind communication and respect for yourself and others.
My advice is to call those family members, own the fact that you let your own fears create this problem and you want to apologize. Own the fact you interpreted their actions inaccurately and chose to take offense. Ask them if you can start over.
Ask them if you can explain your current situation and why these parties and the gift exchange is uncomfortable for you. Tell them you want to spend time with the family, but you don’t want to spend money you don’t have, or feel inadequate because you can’t.
Ask them for their ideas on solving this. Share your honest feelings without going to a victim place. One option is not going to the party, but with an understanding that it’s not personal and you are fine with it. See what other win/wins the two of you can come up with.
If they chose to be offended and cast you as the bad guy (which could happen), you will have another choice to make. Remember your value is infinite, and you can still choose love and forgiveness again. It is not worth being upset over other people’s choices. Love them where they are and choose peace.
You can do this.
Remember these principles of truth:
- Situations don’t mean anything until you apply meaning to them.
- You only feel upset when you are seeing a situation inaccurately and creating suffering around it. There are other options. You could choose to think about this a different way.
- If you saw yourself, life and other people accurately, you would see there is nothing to fear and therefore no reason to be upset.
- You create any upset you experience.
- No person and no situation can make you upset. Your thoughts about the situation create your upset feelings. You are the one responsible for those thoughts — so only you can make you upset.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of ldslifecoaching.com and www.claritypointcoaching.com. She is a sought after life coach and popular speaker who specializes in overcoming fear. She offers a free webinar every Tuesday night with info on her website. Read her every Monday morning on ksl.com.*