Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Avoiding A Kranky Christmas

Christmas is supposed to be a time that brings out the best in people. A time where we feel that extra urge to be compassionate, giving, and help those in need. A time when we should be filled with love, patience and gentleness, and all those sweet things that the birth of Jesus stands for.

But let's face it - sometimes it seems like Christmas does just the opposite, often bringing out the worst in people instead. Stress, frustration, hurting hearts and holiday chaos can cause people to react in not-so-nice ways.

It seems as if rudeness has become an epidemic of great proportion. An epidemic that is harmful and damaging to the person being rude, and the person who is the recipient of the rudeness, yet it is highly tolerated and accepted in our society -  by believers and non-believers alike.  In fact lately, it has seemed like there are Grinches around every corner!

A few weeks ago, I was leaving a store and opening the glass doors to walk out, and a young woman right behind me put her hands on my lower back and literally pushed me out the door, ranting and raving that I was walking too slowy. As she quickly shuffled off, I said God bless you too. She turned around and gave me "the look", and walked away murmering under her breath. I was simply amazed at her rudeness.

And just last week, I was on my cell phone on a business call as I drove to the grocery store to pick up a few groceries.  I had been put on hold for a lengthy period of time, so although I had arrived at my destination, I didn't want to hang up the phone and start all over at a later time. So after pulling into the parking lot, I put my car into 'park', and sat there for a few moments, hoping to finish my call before I went inside to shop.

I happened to glance over at the car beside me, and noticed that an elderly woman, who had her windows down and was reading a newspaper, was giving me a very ugly look.  I looked away, a bit perplexed, and continued to sit there minding my own business, waiting on my caller to return to the conversation. After a few more minutes, I felt as if someone was staring at me (you know how you get that feeling?), so I side-glanced over at the woman in the car again.

Just as before, she was looking at me with a painful grimace on her face, and shaking her head angrily. Out of sheer confusion, I finally rolled down my window and asked if something was wrong. She threw her hands up in the air, and said "Yes!! Your motor is TOO LOUD and it's bothering me!".

What??!!  My motor? I am in the parking lot.......you know, that place where cars are supposed to be, and where cars run their motors. ?

I was so shocked at her response, that all I could do was stare back in utter disbelief with my mouth hanging open. I then rolled my window back up, while biting my tongue so that no words would slip out that I might later regret. Fortunately, I had decided that silence was the golden choice of the moment.

These are not the only times I have experienced extreme rudeness this year, and I am sure you have experienced your fair share too.  It seems rudeness has become so commonplace, that people have no qualms about being rude, and have actually come to consider it a normal, acceptable behavior. It is almost as if the value of politeness and common courtesy for others has become a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, Christmas time is no longer a remedy for this widespread disease of the heart, but instead, often makes matters worse.

Christmas With The Kranks is another one of my favorite Christmas movies.  I always laugh at all the scenes, even though a thread of extreme rudeness is rampant.

The storyline is that Christmas has always been a big deal for the Krank family, characterized by lots of holiday festivities, decorating and hosting an annual neighborhood Christmas Eve party.

But when their daughter Blair joins the Peace Corps and goes to Peru, the idea of a big Christmas doesn't seem so appealing anymore. So Luther (Tim Allen) proposes to his wife Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) that they skip Christmas, and go on cruise instead.

At first, they feel liberated from the expenses and hassles of Christmas, and trying to keep everyone happy. But when their friends and neighbors start to put pressure on them to conform, Luther is defiant, Nora gets upset, and the neighbors are furious, causing them to exhibit extreme rudeness and lack of consideration.

The Kranks spend all month fighting off the expectations that society and their neighbors have placed on them to conform to the traditional Christmas celebrations, but at the last minute, Blair calls to say she IS coming home for Christmas - and she will be home in just a few hours. Thus the craziness begins.

They frantically begin decorating and shopping, trying to keep their 'skipping-Christmas' plan a secret from Blair.  One of the funniest scenes in the movie is when Nora is trying to get a Hickory Honey Ham because it is her daughter's favorite meal, and a part of their traditional Christmas dinner. Nora does not realize, as she innocently sets out to buy a ham, that she is about to experience some serious holiday rudeness. Take a look at this short clip below:

Poor Nora. First, a very rude woman races her to the deli counter in a fight to get the last ham, leaving her sprawled out on the floor amidst a pile of fallen groceries. Second, a car nearly runs over her in the parking lot and just beeps the horn at her, as if she didn't have the right of way. And thirdly, a man bumps into her, knocking her ham out of her hands, and then just walks off, as her poor little ham rolls down a hill only to be crushed by an eighteen wheeler.  In the movie, all this rudeness is quite funny, but in real life, it is not very comical at all.

Sadly as it is, this extreme rudeness does not only happen in movies. Case in point: rude lady in parking lot who got mad because my car was running; and getting shoved out a door by a hurried shopper.

Rudeness has become an epidemic. But we do not have to catch it.  We can immunize ourselves by using God's Word as our reference for how to treat others.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT) tells us that nothing else matters, if we do not treat people with love:

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

So it doesn't matter how nice we are to people we like, or how much we serve at church, or how often we read our bible - if we are rude a stranger, the sales clerk or the unfriendly neighbor.

And 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 addresses how to treat the disease of rudeness:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Most of us encounter rudeness every day, and if we fail to immunize ourselves from it, by committing to showing love to people even if they are not very lovable, then we will most likely be infected by it instead. 

The Christmas season has become known for harboring an epidemic of rudeness ---- long lines of traffic... road rage.... massive crowds carelessly bumping into one another... fights over bargains... fights over parking spaces... theft of gifts... theft of outdoor yard decorations... family feuds.... yelling at cashiers...

But we can go against the current, and mirror the One who set the example we should follow.  Rudeness does not have to beget rudeness, if we are in Christ.

I'll leave you with this thought. I had another example of rudeness the other day. Again, I was in my car and was pulling out of the mall parking lot. Apparently, I got in the way of a woman who was trying to turn into the mall, and I could see her spewing hatred, screaming harsh words at me as if I could hear her. I just smiled and waved at her - she looked stunned, then angered, and ended our encounter with a not-so-nice gesture.

But that's okay, at least I know that I did not allow her rudeness to infect my heart.

I challenge you today to go out of your way to be kind and loving to someone who has not been that way to you.

We may live in a cranky world, but we do not have to become a cranky soul.

Through the strength of Christ within us, we can fight this epidemic of rudeness, one heart and one encounter at a time.

James 4:17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

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Laura said...

Sorry to hear you've had so many unpleasant experiences...but, I'm concerned about your first one. I realize you may be leaving something out, but being on a cell phone (even on hold) while driving is dangerous. It's really not showing care for those around us.

My daughter was injured, while driving, by a woman on a business call. She was conducting this call via her cell phone while driving. The woman said she had done this many times and believed she was doing so safely. She wasn't and my daughter was hospitalized as a result.

Again, I know your complete story may not be in your blog post, but I urge you to not use your cell while driving.

Other people will thank you!


socialworkconfessions.com said...

I loved this post, thank you for sharing, Tracie! I totally had similar unpleasant experiences this Holiday Season. It can get pretty ugly out there ... I loved the post's ending- we have a choice to allow such influences to 'infect' our heart. Truly, that's what it does if we don't remain proactive in Christ!