Returning home for the holidays brews anxiety into the hearts of many, especially when it’s a blue child returning to the red homes in which they grew up. Sam is a proud Lesbian and delights in any opportunity to confront “haters”, her word for people who vocalize dissent for her way of being. Reunions with her family quickly digress into heated yelling matches. Her father sits on his throne at the head of the table, opening about the merits of the current Trump administration, railing against female and gay rights, while she yells back about the hypocrisy of “standing for freedom” while at the same time oppressing minorities. “Every year is the same” she tells me.
“How boring,” I respond. She’s taken aback. I know she wants me to side with her, agreeing with the hardships the gay community has faced, presumably since the beginning of humanity. And, while I do compassionately support her cause, there’s another topic at hand, that of family harmony.
“Choose your battles, choose your audience, choose your timing,” I tell her. “Your father isn’t going to change with confrontation. Hell, he’s probably never going to change at all. Deal with it. The older people get, the more rigid they become. Take your energy, your heat, your passion, and put it where it has a chance to make real change. Not at a family reunion but in a public forum, perhaps. And when you’re home, in your dad’s house, smile and tell him you love him, no matter what he says, no matter how big of an ass he’s being. This is how to defuse a bully. No matter how loud he yells, just smile and nod, and remember inside that you love him. He’ll bore of his tyraids, or he won’t, but at least you can have a peaceful family visit.”
Two weeks later, after a delightful family reunion of my own, I’m on my way back to Guatemala. As I make my way down another disgust infused airplane cabin, I receive a text from Sam: “you were right… thank you”.
I have plenty of opinions, just ask my wife. But I find that one of the arts of being a good person is to love those whom you disagree with most. Everyone of us is on a path to the same place and we’re all at different places along that path. Everyone you ever meet is another beautiful being, perhaps misguided, but walking that path. Our place is not to judge, but to support. By yelling at your father for his silly ideas, you’re not supporting his path, nor your own. We show support by unconditionally loving, demonstrating tolerance and compassion. This is not to suggest that we always silence ourselves for the sake of harmony. Instead, we choose wisely our battles, we choose wisely our audience, and we choose wisely our timing. In this way, we’ll find the time for meaningful discussions and we’ll find other times for harmonious family reunions.
This is a time to eat, drink and be merry! Happy holidays!