I love the giving and receiving of Christmas gifts. This year was no exception. My wife and I have been married long enough to know it’s probably best to ask each other what we want, so there’s not a whole lot of surprise there. But occasionally we surprise each other in the way we give the gifts.
Maybe I’ll put a small gift in a big box as a disguise. Sometimes, my wife will leave me a couple of notes on a short scavenger hunt to shake things up. We try to make it fun.
Most years, in addition to giving each other what we’ve asked for, we try to surprise each other with something small that we don’t see coming. I like those types of gifts. I like small, surprising gifts. They can mean a great deal, especially when you don’t see them coming.
This Christmas, I got a couple of those gifts and neither one of them were from my wife. They were from Phil Robertson and Carrie Underwood.
Okay, I’ll explain.
If you’ve just returned from a two month trip to Mars, you may not be aware that country singer Carrie Underwood played the lead role of Maria in The Sound Of Music in a live production on NBC. A few people had opinions.
If you’ve just landed, you also may not know that the Mike Brady of the new millennium, Phil Robertson, the patriarch of A&E’s Duck Dynasty, said a few things that caused some controversy. A few people had opinions.
Anyone who saw The Sound Of Music or heard about the Robertson GQ interview had a reaction; some kept it to themselves, but many people went to Facebook and Twitter to put in their two cents, using either Carrie’s performance or Phil’s opinions as an English Comp-type writing prompt. I did the same, posting a couple of things on my own social media platforms, commenting on others, and sharing posts of other writers with those who come to my feeds. I also read a whole lot from other people, and between writing my own posts and reading dozens of other people’s thoughts, I realized how important it is for me to respond to everything in love.
It surprised me how quickly I can forget that.
Some folks were just downright mean and nasty, and neither side can claim total innocence on that point. When I saw how one side or the other was reacting on the web, I, too, got riled up. What I learned, though, is that I don’t like myself when I don’t consider what I say or write before I say or write it. If I say or write something before doing my best to check in with how it’s going to land, not only will my words not have the effect of persuasion or real change that I might have intended, they could really do some damage.
The gift I received was a reminder that relationships and my character are far more important than getting in a jab at someone so that I can feel like I’ve gotten one up one them; that really does no good, in the end.
I want to be clear. I want to make my points. I want my voice to be heard. But, I also want to resolve to do those things without feeling the need to be so hurtful.
This doesn’t mean that I’m expecting us all to hop into Michael’s rowboat and sing “Kum Ba Ya” any time soon. I just think we could all be a bit nicer to one another, that’s all. Here’s hoping!
Oh, and by the way, my wife surprised me this Christmas with a brilliant new wallet. I love it!