The pressure of Christmas…REALLY???

the pressure of it all

by Kenneth Justice

~Last week at coffee a single mom sat down at my table…..she was expressing to me her frustrations regarding the upcoming Christmas holiday, “Kenneth, I’m simply worn out. You’d think that since I only have one kid it wouldn’t be so tough, but I just feel so pressured from everyone around me to give my daughter an awesome Christmas….and I simply don’t have the money to do very much. We’re only two weeks away and I don’t even have a Christmas tree up yet!”

The woman’s boyfriend volunteered to purchase a couple ‘big ticket’ items and the young mother was debating as to whether or not she should let the boyfriend (who she has only been dating for six months) spend a ton of money on her daughter.

Its kind of weird when you think about it, we all know that Christmas is ‘supposed’ to be about a deeper meaning beyond ‘buying presents’….but its so easy to get swallowed up by the culture that surrounds us.

Yesterday I talked about social networks (like Facebook) and one reader said that Facebook is nothing more than a ‘tool’ and that we shouldn’t focus on the tool itself being bad but rather, how we use it. I totally agree; Social Networks are only bad news when we misuse them; and unfortunately some people are so adept at misusing them that they probably would be better off not using Facebook.

And in many ways Christmas is like this as well; Christmas is a ‘tool’ meant for us to use. Christmas isn’t meant to be something that drives us crazy…is it? I mean, whatever holiday we celebrate, whether we are Jewish, Muslim, Christian or fill-in-the-blank; holidays weren’t created to frustrate us and send us into a tizzy because we don’t have enough money to ‘celebrate it the right way’. Holidays were created to give us a ‘time out’ from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. But unfortunately, too often than not, holidays are merely another day on the calendar when we spend too much money, get a little too drunk, or get into too many fights with our relatives.

Since I’m a Christian I’m often reminded of the way the religious leaders of Jesus day were constantly trying to frustrate him; every which way he turned the religious leaders were trying to cram down his throat their overbearing ways……at one point they accused him of not celebrating the Sabbath (a type of holiday) the correct way….to which he responded, “Dude, you are a bunch of religious hypocrites who aren’t getting the meaning behind this kind of stuff; the Sabbath (and other holidays) were created for you guys to enjoy….you weren’t created for the Sabbath or to be a slave to holidays!” [The Kenneth Paraphrase].

I have to remind myself this quite often because there are too many times in my life where I feel like a slave to a particular thing;

—) I used to feel so guilty if I missed church on Sunday

—) I used to feel guilty if I didn’t call a friend or relative on their birthday

—) I used to feel guilty if I couldn’t totally meet the needs of a particular client

—) I used to feel guilty if I didn’t buy enough presents for my loved ones at Christmas

Too much of my life revolved around me feeling guilty that I wasn’t ‘doing enough’….but one day I woke up and realized; I simply can’t do it all. As Peter Parker’s Aunt told him, “You’re not a superhero ya know“….well actually, Peter Parker was a superhero,…but Kenneth Justice is not; I’m simply a mere mortal that can’t be all things to all people….I can only do the best that I can.

So as I sat with the young women I shared with her some of these thoughts….but I knew that merely telling her these things wasn’t going to make all the pressure go away…..”Kenneth, I already know all of this stuff” she said, “Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you know the truth, I mean, I know that I don’t have to buy a ton of presents for my daughter…..but there is still a big part of me that feels pressured to do so” she said

I totally understood what the young woman was getting at. When I was working at the rehab clinic; I didn’t have to tell my clients that they were addicts….the overwhelming majority of them already knew it to be so….but just because they knew they were addicted to heroin, alcohol, or whatever; it didn’t make their addiction go away.

Sometimes we can know something to be true…..but still have a difficult time breaking the cycle that we want to stop.

—-) Some of us have been really hurt by others via Facebook…..but its difficult to delete our account

—-) Some of us are in abusive relationships….but its difficult for us to break up with the significant other

—-) Some of us realize we don’t have to break-the-bank to buy Christmas presents….but we still feel pressured to do so

Sometimes, just because we know something to be true; it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with the situation. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is to keep talking about the problem that is on our mind….and through constantly dialoguing with others it can help to reinforce positive behavior within us……

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to meet up with a friend for coffee and have a good conversation…..which reminds me….


Categories: Culture & Society

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60 replies

  1. Very, very, very good. I wish more people could see this. In fact, I’m sharing it with my Facebook friends. Thank you.

  2. At coffee … at dialoguing … You are reinventing the entire English language! I am off to be at dictionary! To find out what “Just say No” means.

  3. Getting through the guilt is a big thing! Thanks for the reminder!

  4. your children want your Christmas heart

  5. seems to me Christianity has a guilt complex . . . as does it’s holidays . . . especially since they are basically created for a guy who only had a rock for a pillow . . .

    saying that I always liked Christmas because it seems to make everybody a little bit more happy . . .


    • “seems to me Christianity has a guilt complex”

      I can’t argue with that; if it was guilt that stirred people towards good behavior…then maybe that would be fine…but too often the guilt leads to…well…not so good behavior.

  6. Maybe it’s too late to go back – there are so many cultural demands now tied to Christmas – but this holiday (Holy Day) is supposed to be about remembering Jesus’ birth, not about getting worn out and frustrated and guilty over shopping.

  7. I’m in my late 60’s. And as far back as I can remember.. It’s been the SAME story. Christmas is about “this” and not “that”. But “this” will NEVER be the same. Ever since Joyce Hall “invented” a “need” for her cards.. the “guilt” set in. “When you care enough to send the very best”, was the slogan which everyone seemed to “give by”. And it’s grown into the “monster” it’s become today. There’s really no stopping it.. or even controlling it. About the only we can do is pray that “this” is never TOTALLY abandoned for “that”. (But.. then again.. ask any youngster what Christmas is all about. Guess what their first answer would be)

  8. We have been made addicts. We need to, have to, keep using, buying, doing, staying in order to not feel guilty. It is like we have to for the rest of the world to see we are just like them.

    Isn’t it right that an addict keeps doing what he does out of quilt. get drunk just to forget that they even were feeling guilty. True enough we do not drink to forget but to remember with every glass we know why.

    • Ranting Crow,

      the older I get the more I tend to agree with you; it seems like Western Culture is designed in such away as to ‘create addicts’ or ‘make addicts’…..although the world has always had problems…I don’t think that hudnreds of years ago life was designed in such away as to create addictive personalities…I could be wrong..but its just a hunch I have.

    • Even hundreds of years ago we created addiction. or maybe then it was called greed.
      I agree we always have and had problems. but the solutions do not make it better.

  9. If this is the way that everyone feels, then why is it too late? Change starts with just one person. Change the way Christmas is celebrated in YOUR house! It starts there 🙂

  10. Great post and great reminder on what is important.

    It comes down to choices. You choose the kind of Christmas you want or whether you will feel guilty for missing Church. I guess that is our free will, our power of choice.

    Best of wishes to the young lady in your story. The fact that she is worried about this is an indication that she is a good mom. It shows she cares.

    • “The fact that she is worried about this is an indication that she is a good mom. It shows she cares. ”

      I agree; as long as people are talking about something it is the beginning of growth 🙂

  11. I agree with this completely. I have known of parents who had candid dialogue with their kids about budget, and limited finances, and surprisingly, kids handle it much better than many adults do. I think that woman in the shop should learn to politely tell all those busy bodies, to butt out. And if it takes a little more assertive dialogue, then so be it. She ought not feel pressured just because people say things that make her feel bad. There is more to Christmas than just giving a tangible gift. Some of the most meaningful gifts are things you cannot see with the naked eye. It’s a lesson that she can teach her daughter while she is still young.

  12. Guilt can kill you and I’m too young to die. I’m gone take life day by day ( ladder of my life ) I’m planning to enjoy holiday even if I only get to drink a cup of coffee with my friend, as a Christmas gift 😀 I remember my parents sending cards to their family and friends. They were happier, but I know they need it lot more. It’s people that have changed, holidays are the same. I wish to everyone peaceful, happy, and cheerful holiday!

  13. I completely agree with the “guilt” perspective and have “silently” protested Christmas by spending the last two in a third world country with strangers, rather than family. The first year the pressure from friends and family was so incredible, I packed 2 extra checked bags full of Christmas toys for the poor kids I knew I’d find just so I could tell everyone I was combining my “vacation” with a “mission trip.” Everyone was only slightly less upset. Last year I did the same, but booked a longer trip. Unfortunately it came after a bad break up and there was double the “guilt” slung at me because not only was I abandoning family during Christmas, but now I was also running away from my troubles! Tomorrow I get on a plane with my fiance and head back to that same third-world country just as Christmas is around the corner yet again. This time I am headed to spend time with friends I have made over the last two years, so my friends and family have come to accept that part of me truly belongs somewhere else over Christmas. But it turns out that my sister, who I haven’t seen in eighteen months, is returning from Japan for a Holiday visit and I am going to be gone the entire time that she is home… so yes, more guilt piled up…

    So I wonder, for the sake of gaining perspective, how do you think our desire to live “guilt-free” lives should be balanced with the humility and self-sacrifice that comes in pleasing others? For instance, although my mind and heart would be somewhere else (selfishly wandering among my new friends in this third-world country), should I have stayed home this Christmas so that my mother could have all of her children under one roof for the first time in 8 years?

    I enjoy your perspective and that of your followers, so I’m interested to read your thoughts over this, an electronic cup of coffee!

  14. I played a gig at a church yesterday, and the message was to “spend LESS at Christmas”, while still giving MORE of yourself.

    That mom you refer to could have a wonderful time with her new boyfriend being CREATIVE and building something fun for her daughter.

    Have a great day.


  15. I think it is very difficult to celebrate Christmas in a simpler way. I’m insisting on it this year, and my family is fine with it; but I’ve had to work on my own inner guilt for not being more into the same things that everyone else is. So yeah, the pressure can be resisted but you have to really know your own mind and what is important to you. I also think it’s a bigger deal for women, I’m not sure most men care that much. Although in our family my husband is the one who is more into Christmas traditions, so you never know.

    • ” I also think it’s a bigger deal for women, I’m not sure most men care that much.”

      I would suspect that in most cases you are totally right. For me though, Christmas has always been a big deal; even as a kid I was usually the one who put the tree up and put the lights on the house (my dad worked a ton and didn’t have much energy left when he got home…and my mother had a lot of children that preoccupied her attention)….so for me; guilt is a huge issue during the holidays and I’m constantly trying to weigh what is the ‘best’ thing to do regarding presents rather than letting the culture dictate how I spend my money and on what….thank you for the great comments 🙂

  16. I sure needed this! You’ve reminded me of Saint Francis de Sales remark: “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy-then we need an hour.”
    Thanks have a laid-back Christmas!

  17. If you give toys to african kids they will learn to fight and yearn for more, if you give them chalk they will learn to write and dance stay healthy and share. Some people may inject heroine into there brains by slamming a nedle into the side of their head and causingh themselves brain damage, death., and saving money on needing drugs – some people would have a cup of coffee to wake up in the morning

  18. I like your last point. If that woman were to express her feelings to enough people who agreed with her and told her she shouldn’t feel pressured, maybe the pressure she felt would be relieved.

    Growing up, I was always frustrated when I saw kids who go everything they ever wanted each Christmas. These are the kids who got the Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo systems of the day plus game, plus movies, plus anything else you can imagine a child wanting. When I was very young, I was jealous. As I got older and witness the tantrums they through at the age of 12 or 14, I realized what it really meant to be spoiled. I could go on about that issue alone, but my point is, if those children understood the true meaning behind the holiday, if they knew what it meant to be thankful for small things, maybe they would have grown into better people. That isn’t to say they still can’t become better people, but now they have to overcome their spoiled personalities.

    I think we put this pressure on ourselves. When you talk to people, they will tell you staying in a relationship isn’t worth the abuse, staying on a social network isn’t worth the emotional grief and buying Christmas presents isn’t worth breaking the bank. When we talk about these things, and realize there are plenty of people who are not putting that pressure on them, that pressure can be lifted (at least a little).

    • TK —> “I like your last point. If that woman were to express her feelings to enough people who agreed with her and told her she shouldn’t feel pressured, maybe the pressure she felt would be relieved.”

      K.J. –> So that right there is the theory behind my blog; one of my best friends (who died last year) used to say that he didn’t have ‘any original thoughts’….”Everything I’ve ever said is likely something I learned from someone else, a parent, teacher, friend, relative, etc…” he said

      so when I write my blog every day its not that I think I have something ‘unique’ to say…but that I’m helping to continue a dialogue…..the more we express our thoughts and feelings the more it helps the positive ideas to solidify within our being (soul, spirit, mind, whatever) and helps to move us toward greater maturity 🙂

      TK —> “I think we put this pressure on ourselves. When you talk to people, they will tell you staying in a relationship isn’t worth the abuse, staying on a social network isn’t worth the emotional grief and buying Christmas presents isn’t worth breaking the bank. When we talk about these things, and realize there are plenty of people who are not putting that pressure on them, that pressure can be lifted (at least a little).”

      TOTALLY right on!

  19. At first I thought you were going to write a saga about a need to care for single moms – and not to sound cold, but we are around some folks who have this big outreach to single moms – and while I know they have challenges- the ones I have encountered have played the single mom trump card to a pity party state – and almost come to this group entitled – and when we volunteered to help a couple of times – well both times we delivered stuff and brought gifts cards and did yard -work – and something just felt wrong – like they were maybe single for a reason – and with that in mind, I know plenty of married moms that could use a little outreach – or homeless, or struggling students, or couples unemployed, because so many people can be hurting and the marital status does not always translate to worthy of outreach and after outreach, (IMHO).

    anyhow, thanks for not having it be a plug for that, although I am sure it would have been goo if it was –

    but awesome points here – thx! and I think the ending summation was my favorite part – and is another example of how CHANGE takes time….because we begin to see, grasp, and feel the folly of something – or we begin to see what is wise to do or not to do – but then it takes TIME to implement it and MUCH effort to apply – and many are not able to carve and sculpt the path to wellness.

    But then – as the lady notes and as you expound – we still feel the pressure or the reality of things because we are human and we have very real emotions and feelings. And for our family, we have drawn healthy boundaries at the holidays – so they are less stressful and a lot more peaceful than when we traveled and stupidly did we we thought we HAD to do – but the flips side is that we then have to deal with hum drum days or missing certain family – and so the nice healthy boundary reduces stress, but has a blah feel at times. lol and so it takes a bit to talking and reminding ourself of why we do what we do – etc.

    We cannot have “everything” all the time, for seasons maybe…. (but for the most part, can’t always have cake and eat it too type of thing) and with making healthy chalices – it takes time to see, understand, process, accept and then apply and cope with regularly…. hmmm

  20. Gratifying self or others is not the “reason for the season.”

  21. Money rules the world; always has, always will. Any resistance is doomed to failure because resistance is never defeated outright, but simply absorbed. Think the commercialization of Christmas is disgusting? Don’t worry, someone will make t-shirts and make money off of that sentiment. Someone probably already did.

    The only response is to live one’s beliefs and give up trying to change the world. True practice will always be on the fringes. The world is what it is, and the only question is how do we choose to live our lives?

    This is coming from a non-Christian :).

  22. Great post, Kenneth! Enjoy your coffee 😉

  23. Well said, my friend. Even though we aren’t of this world, we still live in it; therefore, we’ll feel the pressures that come to us. It’s a sad shame to feel like you HAVE to do something that may not be within your means to do, or that you may not even want to do. I feel for this woman in some ways… but I don’t think her daughter would be any less disappointed if the tree wasn’t loaded. My mom was a single mom… so from the kid perspective, as long as you get the things the child really wants, they’ll be happy. We’ll forget about everything else.

  24. Absolutely, awareness of the absurdity of an idea or issue is only half the battle, certainly doesn’t make it go away. But, I think we need to take some responsibilty for these things. if you feel pressured to spend a lot of money on Christmas, it’s you pressuring yourself in some way, right? It’s you that’s validating another’s opinion. We need to find the root of this–dig it out. It’s not easy. I think that might be the problem, thinking it should be as easy as being aware that there’s a problem.

  25. There’s a huge leap we all make when we go from caring about what others think/pressures of society to being comfortable in our decisions. It can be tough when they seem to go against the norm. I fall back into worrying about what others think from time to time.

    It’s also a great feeling when we receive positive feedback about our life choices.

    Especially when I thought I was making a choice that would isolate me forever.

    A good time of year for a reminder, Kenneth.

  26. Good thoughts, Kenneth. Enjoy your Christmas coffee; I certainly will enjoy mine – and do a minimum of preparations to ensure there’s plenty of time to, well, just be I suppose. It is surprisingly liberating to scale down all the ‘musts’ and instead of running around like a demented rat to get ‘everything done’ spend time with family and friends – and with myself.

  27. A thought for Christmas and more. The pressure to conform to and ideal can be a great motivator to achieve in our lives but it can also decimate our souls if it is abused. We need to sometimes stop in the rapids of life and say, “Is this the way I want to go?” And yes, talk with others to find our answers. I also am going to post this on Facebook.

  28. Just what I needed to read this morning! Thanks!


  30. This is an amazing read. I’m impressed. Keep up the great work.

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