Christmas Eve was always a raucous affair when I was growing up. All my aunts and primos and extended familia would pile into my grandma’s tiny casa. The kids would run around while the adults ate tamales, danced and argued. Hey, it was the holidays—that’s what family is for, right?
Family fights and the holidays go together like turkey and gravy. In a recent online poll, 65 percent of those surveyed said their family has disagreements during the holidays, and 68 percent were expecting someone to get on their nerves this season.
I know this from painful experience: My younger sister and I have a history of holiday quarrels. I think she’s irresponsible and she thinks I’m a know-it-all. Things came to a head last Christmas Eve, when we got into a monster fight. It started out with me giving her some well-intentioned—but totally unwanted—advice about her finances. She quickly got defensive, I quickly became indignant, and we exchanged some not-so-nice words. The next time we saw each other we ended up in a screaming (and scratching) match. And now we don’t talk at all.
I feel at turns furious and hurt. But with this year’s holidays approaching, I realize my anger has kept us hostage. The truth is I miss and love my sister and underneath my anger is fear. I want her to live up to her potential and do right by herself. But I can’t make her change. The only thing I can do is change myself: my attitude toward her and how I speak to her. It’s inspiration—not irritation—that motivates. Yelling at my sister will only make us both more pissed off and distant. If I really want to help her, I have to forgive her and accept her for who she is: just another flawed, imperfectly perfect human. Just like me.
Forgiveness is like alchemy. When you lay down your anger, hurt can be transformed to healing.
Here are some quick thoughts on getting your forgiveness going:
1. Start small. You may feel betrayed and hurt, and you might not be ready to forgive just yet. That’s cool. Instead, you might start by forgiving smaller issues, like the woman who stole your parking spot or your friend who’s always late. Flexing these small forgiveness muscles will strengthen you to forgive bigger grudges later.
2. You can forgive people without even speaking to them. If you can’t bring yourself to contact the person you want to forgive, try this: write down the transgression, say aloud to the universe that you’re letting go of your anger and are forgiving this person, and then bury or burn the paper. Invite peace into your heart and move on.
3. Do it for you. Studies show that forgiveness can lower blood pressure and heart rate and reduce levels of depression, anxiety and anger. As Tony Robbins says, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.
Robyn Moreno is a lifestyle expert and Emmy-nominated TV host.