The end of Advent means the beginning of Christmastime. The celebration of the birth of Our Savior brings friends and family together. Each of us wants this time to be as happy as possible. While many things can get in the way of our enjoyment of Christmastime, let me list four. Some of their names may be unfamiliar, but each of us will be familiar with the behaviors they express. Without further ado, the four things to avoid for a happier Holiday Season.
- Contumely: unjustly dishonoring a person in their presence. The contumacious person is frequently called a bully on account of their insulting other people. Inherently, everyone knows that the bully is unhappy. The insults he delivers–while significantly hurting others—especially weaken his own capacity for happiness because they necessarily entail a turning away from the love that ought to be present in his heart. Name-calling is usually an act of malice or anger, not an act of love.
- Rash judgment: Every person has a right to their reputation. To judge someone rashly means to unjustifiably assent to believing a moral fault about another. Rash judgment attacks a person’s happiness because it weakens their ability to grow in love and friendship with those around them. Rash judgment can also be called a sort of prejudice because it pre-judges a person without a reference to the truth. Like the cliché, rash judgment is to judge a book by its cover. When this happens you miss out on the good content!
- Detraction: A common question a person might ask to begin a conversation is, “any news, any gossip?” Gossip is most frequently the “matter” of detraction. Detraction makes known the private faults or imperfections of others without reasonable justification. Engaging in a conversation that dwells on the faults of another shows, and even increases, the inner poverty of him or her who speaks it. Conversation serves to increase our happiness when it builds others up—not tear them down. We would do well to avoid this sort of conversation all together because it is the beginning of negativity and cynicism.
- Calumny: Of the four things on the list, calumny does the most to lessen one’s happiness. Calumny is to tell a falsehood about someone else. Calumny hurts the person who says it in two ways: first, it hurts the reputation of the person it is spoken about (thereby weakening concord which should exist between persons); and second, it is a lie. To tell a lie, that is to intentionally deceive another, makes a person a liar. The liar’s disregard for truth adds to their unhappiness because it creates the fear of being exposed. Speaking well of another is like the tide rising in a harbor: all the boats go up together; speaking untruths about another is the opposite: the boats go down together (one in reality, one by harm to their reputation).
I hope each of you enjoys great happiness with family and friends this Holiday Season. By avoiding contumely, rash judgment, detraction, and calumny you be happier this Holiday Season. We should be especially careful not commit any of these offenses against family. If it should happen that you end up on the receiving end of contumely, rash judgment, detraction, or calumny please forgive and don’t retaliate. Avoiding disparaging speech makes it easier for us to prepare a place in our hearts for the new-born King.
A blessed Christmas Season to you all!
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