THREE CHRISTMAS GIFTS

We are in week three of our series IN, OUT, UP, and DOWN, and today we are focusing on looking OUT at our health and healthy relationships. Right now, in the week before Christmas, a conversation about health and healthy eating may be a little challenging! However, in just two

weeks we will be in January, when everyone focuses a renewed interest in getting in shape and losing weight.

As we all know, good health is vitally important to sustaining an active lifestyle in the years to come, and it’s very difficult to begin a quest for health after decades of neglect. Let me encourage you to assess where you are in your eating, sleeping, and exercise habits, and to choose one area to focus on for the first quarter of 2019. An excellent place to start is sleep. Most of us do not get enough sleep, and it affects our productivity, our mood, our eating, and our general sense of wellbeing. Once you start giving your body the amount of sleep it needs, exercising and eating well are much easier to accomplish. We all know the areas we need to improve, and I just want to encourage you that your health is important in your continued success. When you are looking OUT, look out for yourself, and pay attention to you.

The other part of looking OUT that I want to talk about with you today is relationships. Here at Christmas time, we have an added focus on friends and family, and often this brings additional enjoyment or additional conflict! I’d like to look at relationships by showing you three gifts that you can give to the people in your life. First, we have a gift for the people we know and like. Second, there is a gift for people we find difficult, and finally, we will talk about a gift for the person who has everything.

You have heard me say before that the only things that will last in this world are the Word of God and people. Since we know that, our interactions with people should be of extreme importance to us. It is often this interaction, though, that contributes the most to our joy or to our unhappiness.

Basically, we can group people into two categories. One is people that we know and like or would like to get to know. The other is people who bring challenges into our lives.

First, let’s look at the gift for the people that we know and like. The best gift we can give these people is the gift of listening, the gift of our focused attention. It is fascinating how people respond when they are given complete, undivided attention. M. Scott Peck says, “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” I challenge you to hold a one-on- one conversation and be purposeful about giving the person all of your attention. Don’t look around. Don’t check your phone. Don’t watch TV. Just truly listen. Listen to what they are saying, and make the conversation about them. You will be surprised at how people bloom when they know you are completely invested in hearing them.

Several years ago at a Christmas party for young married couples, I remember playing an intriguing game. When we first arrived, the hostess gave each of us five toothpicks, and the rules were that as we mingled and chatted with friends, we were not allowed to use the pronoun ‘I.’ If we did use ‘I’, we had to surrender a toothpick to whomever we were speaking with at the time. This went on for the first half of the party, and toothpicks were frequently passed back and forth. It was interesting to see how often we all used ‘I’ in our conversations. As it turned out, the person who collected the most toothpicks at the end of the time was the person who had spoken the least and listened the most. It was actually an enlightening game for all of us, and I often think about that in my own conversations with people. Just as Larry King said, “I remind myself every morning: nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”

So, for all the people in your life that you like and would like to get to know better, give them the gift of listening and of your undivided attention. I think you will be amazed at the response.

Now…for those challenging people, I am proposing that you also give them a gift. Give them the gift of seeking to understand. Why are they the way they are? Is there something in their life that has caused them to see the world differently? Have they been hurt so badly that their resentment colors everything they do? Do they come from a different background and the two of you have a hard time finding common ground? Can you understand something more about them that gives you a better perspective on who they are?

Even when you understand more, there may be people you simply do not enjoy being around. And that’s OK. What is not OK, though, is being unkind. People may annoy you, maybe they talk over you, maybe they interrupt, or maybe they have actually been malicious to you, Whatever the reason, when you are unkind, it says a lot more about you than it does about them. If they are intentionally rude to you, then address it with them. Privately is always best so there is no posturing on either side, and again, seek to understand why. Was there a misunderstanding? Is there a false believe on either side? Have they listened to gossip about you, or maybe they have been the one to start the gossip? You may be able to find the root of the problem and clear it up, or you may not be able to work it out after all. But you should try. If you can win them over, you have gained. If you cannot, then perhaps your best course is to choose not to engage them. Step away. Take a break. But most importantly, watch your words.

This is important no matter if you are trying to resolve a conflict or talking to a friend. Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it kind?

Is it true? Is what you are about to say true, or is it just what you have heard or what you think might be the case? If you are stating something as fact, make absolutely certain that it is a fact, and even if it is true, check yourself. Is it necessary? It what you are saying essential to the conversation? Is it important that it be heard? Because, above all is the third question. Is it kind? Do your words build up a person, or tear them down? Will they leave the person better, or would it be better if your words were left unsaid? Most conflicts are started because people said things that were either untrue, unnecessary, or unkind. Make sure your words meet these three critical standards before you speak them.

Just like a doctor, you should adopt the motto when speaking of, “First, do no harm.” Then do some good. Make your conversation positive and uplifting. Go out of your way to compliment someone, to thank someone, and to let them know that they are valuable to you. Which brings us to our third gift…what do you give someone who has everything?

The best gift you can give someone this Christmas is the gift of your time. Australian actress Claire Holt says it well, “One of the greatest gifts in life is giving time and giving love. It helps me stay grateful and happy.”

Time is the most valuable commodity you have, and when you give someone your time, you are giving them a part of you that cannot be duplicated or replaced. Call your grandmother. Take your mom to lunch. Send an email to your employee or coworker. Have coffee with a friend. Text or meet in person, and tell someone that they are meaningful to you and loved by you by giving them the gift of time. What do you give someone who has everything? Give them what they don’t have—your time, your undivided attention, your listening ear, and your kind words.

I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and that you are surrounded by people you love. And I hope too, that you are able to strengthen your relationships with these three gifts and you find a new appreciation for the people around you.

When you grow in your relationships and develop true friendships, the rest of your life will indeed be the best of your life!

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