Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — I've heard from quite a few people this week who are stressed about the quarrels and family drama that so often accompany Thanksgiving dinner.
So, here are a few things to think about that might help you experience more love toward your relatives this year.
Who and what are you?
This is one of the most important questions you will answer in your life. It's important because your beliefs about your creation, your nature and your intrinsic worth create the lens through which you see the world. You literally see the world as you see yourself. Every choice, reaction and emotion reveals how you feel about yourself. What is your worst behavior saying about who and what you think you are?
Where does your value come from?
Right now, you subconsciously believe your beliefs, ideas, appearance, property and accomplishments determine your value. You likely believe your value must be earned, which means you also believe some people are better or worse than you. This belief is the reason you might see yourself as not good enough, but these are all just beliefs. They are not facts, which means you can change them any time you want.
You could choose to believe that your value is not tied to anything you have done or achieved. It is not based on how you look or what anyone thinks of you, and your performance and mistakes can't change it. You could choose to believe your value is tied to only one thing: your perfect, irreplaceable, divine creation by God or the universe.
Stop believing you create your own value
You didn't and don't create yourself, nor do you decide or determine your value, nor is it affected by what other people think of you. The only opinion that matters is the one who created us. This higher power gave all humans the same divine, infinite value, which doesn't change and isn't in question (at least you have the option of believing this idea is truth).
Robert Perry in his writing about self-esteem said, "If you were a homeless person without a penny, dirty and disheveled, forgotten by everyone, all of this limitless self-worth would still be yours. It has nothing to do with anything particular to you. In this sense, nothing particular about you matters. Your special talents, your special traits, your special place in the world—none of them can increase your self-worth one bit. It is already infinite. For you are the son (or daughter) of God."
Choosing to see people this way could change everything.
You aren't powerful enough to diminish your value
You could choose to believe that you were created by divine love, through divine love and as divine love, and that your value comes from this alone, is innate inside you and never changes. You could choose to believe your achievements, behavior, intelligence, appearance and popularity have no effect on your Identity or worth. While they might change your extrinsic value as the world sees it, they cannot change your intrinsic worth at all.
This means all your efforts to earn your value through your appearance or performance are futile. Think about this: God, or the universe, did not give you the power to diminish his creation (you) or make it worthless. He didn't give you the power to ruin yourself or discount his creation. Nothing you do or don't do can usurp his valuation of you.
When you start to internalize this truth, you will also begin to gain compassion for the imperfect humans around you. They, just like you, are perfectly created students in the classroom of life and their value is not in question either. They, like you, are here in life school to learn to love themselves and other people at a higher level. They, like you, are struggling with fears that get in the way and create bad behavior.
The way you see other people is the way you see yourself
If you harbor any hate or negative feelings toward any other person, it is a sign to you that you lack love for yourself. If you want to learn to love yourself more, you must stop attacking others and seeing them as worse or less than. The way you love yourself is often a reflection of the way you see other people and vice versa.
The Course in Miracles says, "When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him you will see yourself. As you treat him you will treat yourself. As you think of him you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself."
Choose love toward the people who bother you most
This doesn't mean you have to hang out with abusive, hurtful or negative people and spend time with them. You can have healthy boundaries and stand up for yourself, but you can do this from a place of strength, wisdom and love. You can choose to see everyone that God has created as a perfect part of your perfect classroom journey. You can see them as infinitely valuable human souls, even if you don't want to spend time with them.
You could choose to believe that nothing exists in your life that wasn't created to educate and grow you. You could choose to see the people in your life as perfect teachers, whose behavior is always serving you, even when they are driving you crazy. These teachers push your buttons and offend you to give you a chance to practice standing firm in your value, knowing you cannot be diminished, trusting you are here to learn and grow, and choosing love toward yourself and others even when it's hard. This is actually the purpose of everything you experience.
Bad behavior is often a request for love
You might approach family gatherings this year as a chance to work on loving yourself and others more fully. You will do this because you want to increase your love and compassion for yourself. In order to love yourself more, you must stretch the limits of your love and choose to see the humans around you as divinely created, struggling, infinitely valuable students in the classroom of life — just like you.
Choose to see their unloving behavior as a reflection of their lack of love for themselves. They are most likely projecting their lack of love for themselves onto you, though they can't see this. They are probably in fear that they aren't good enough or safe. These fears encourage them to attack others in order to see others as beneath them, get defensive, or show off because they believe they must do these things to be safe. But none of these behaviors is about you.
It helps me to believe that humans are only capable of two things: being loving and requesting love. This means all bad behavior is a request for love. Bad behavior is a sign they aren't OK. People who create family drama and conflict are never the ones with solid self-esteem, inner strength and wisdom. They are the ones who are blinded by fear and need love most, even though they are often the hardest to love.
Use family gatherings as love practice
This year, you might choose someone who you struggle to love and focus on seeing them more accurately. See their divinely bestowed and permanent value (which is the same as yours) and look for the fear that is preventing them from being loving. Are they scared, insecure or hurting? Allow them to be where they are in their unique classroom journey. Choose to see them as doing the best they can with what they know. They just can't see what they can't see. Try to tune into God's love for them and see if you can feel it.
If you must, limit your interactions with these difficult people to protect yourself; that's OK. You can practice loving them from afar, maybe from across the room or from the safety of your own home. Just practice choosing a mindset of love and accuracy toward them and it will still improve your self-esteem and make your holiday more positive and thankful.
You can do this.