Dec. 23—   From Guest Columnist PAULA DOCKERY:

Let Christmas Be a Time to Reflect on How We Treat Each Other— 

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This has been a tough year. The presidential election was as ugly and mean-spirited as any I’ve seen. It took an incredible emotional toll on many of us and left bitter divisions that we’re still dealing with.

 

There are strains within marriages, and among families, friends, co-workers and neighbors. And on social media the nastiness gets magnified, escalated and shared among acquaintances and even among strangers.

 

We’ve lost our ability to tolerate others’ views and to show compassion or sensitivity to their feelings. Instead of leaving them to cope, there are some who think it appropriate to gloat, taunt and insult.

 

People react in different ways. Some enjoy the war of words and confrontation and try to stoke it while others avoid it or are deeply hurt by it.

 

The insults have become very personal, creating awkwardness and estrangement. This is occurring during the holiest season of the year for Christians, when family and friends gather to celebrate the birth of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

 

How can it be that those who consider themselves good Christians and disciples of Jesus could deviate so far from his teachings?

 

When people ask, “Are you ready for Christmas?” they’re usually referring to all the holiday traditions like decorating the house, shopping for presents, going to parties, preparing the meal or visiting family. Those are the things we usually stress about.

 

This year when people ask, perhaps we should contemplate whether we understand and accept the significance of Christmas and what the gift from the Father of his only son means in our lives.

 

It’s not what we say; it’s what we do and how we live our lives that matter. Being offended by people saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” does not make someone a good Christian if they also condone using angry, hateful language and personal insults against those with whom they disagree.

 

We, as a society, are not walking in the path set for us. Christmas is a good time for us to reflect on how we treat each other.

 

After much reflection, I came up with a long list of Christmas wishes:

 

We treat each other with dignity and respect. We stop denigrating people who are different from us and treat those less fortunate with compassion and acceptance.

 

We return to a more civil society where we can disagree without animosity or hostility. We listen to others and try to understand them. We’re open to new ideas and accept differences of opinion.

 

We place less emphasis on winning and more on doing what’s right.  We stop rewarding bad behavior and start recognizing selfless, brave, meaningful actions that benefit others. We stop creating enemies and develop partners and friends.

 

We adhere to a shared set of values, including honesty, integrity, generosity, loyalty, hard work, fairness and equality.  Truth matters again and is not subject to debate or denial to suit one’s purpose. We value knowledge and encourage intellectual curiosity and life-long learning.

 

We forgive more. We replace hatred and anger with love and acceptance. We spend more time nurturing friendships and family relationships.

 

We place a greater emphasis on service to others and less on personal ambition.

 

Our elected representatives look out for all of us—the disabled, the elderly, the poor, the sick, the unemployed, the working class—not just the rich and powerful.

 

Those in positions of power are honest brokers who value truth and service and don’t try to trick, fool or manipulate us to maintain or enhance their position.

 

Those in office feel a responsibility to protect our planet and its natural resources that we depend on instead of exploiting them for the enrichment of a few to the detriment of many.

 

Our representatives insist on a fair and just system of law that focuses on safety, punishment and rehabilitation, not on retribution or revenge.

 

Our political leaders don’t pit one group against another to sow fear, loathing, jealousy, insecurity and division or to leverage for personal gain.

 

Our religious leaders work independent of government to offer spiritual guidance, emotional comfort and a moral compass that stresses inclusion, tolerance and charity.

 

We set a better example for our children and grandchildren and provide strong, ethical and inspirational role models for them.

 

We put love of country above any party or outside influence. Our deeply divided nation will heal and prosper.

 

Now I’m ready for Christmas.

 

Paula Dockery is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland. She can be reached at PBDockery@gmail.com.

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