An Olive Branch

A Toast for the Holiday Season

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It’s easy to wish for peace on earth, goodwill towards men. The phrase is plastered on Christmas cards and decorations as though it could just happen one day. But it seems obtaining it is always up to someone or something else. It sure would be nice to have. More accurately it translates “peace to men of goodwill.”

They start as random thoughts that take a direction and pick up speed, gaining momentum and ever greater meaning to us. There is always something, layers deep that can hitch a ride to the conscious mind on the fast train of first impressions and popular opinion. Even if your particular opinion isn’t popular, it’s only the tip of the iceberg as far as your feelings about it are concerned. How we “feel” about something drives the basis for any opinion on any topic. Or how we feel about others that hold the same or opposing position.

We like to believe that our viewpoints are based on information. While acknowledging our bent is certainly not the only one, we still like to think that we’ve done our homework and are comfortable with the stance we’ve chosen. I have recently come to realize how little this is true. In each of us, buried much further below the surface than any would like to admit, lays the real furnace that forges who we “are”. It’s comprised of past experiences, family dogma, societal influences, economic status held together by what little self-awareness we might possess. The uniqueness of each input value combined in endless variations produces the individual perspectives that populate this planet. When you think about this, it’s obvious that only through the most glaring similarities are we as a human community, able to agree on anything at all.

There are feelings about things and then there are opinions on things, but do we stop to think about the difference? Is there one? The realization that most of what we believe is based solely on feelings is humbling. We begin to understand the frailty of our convictions. It’s as though if we release a strongly held opinion our whole belief system will collapse. Like pulling on a single piece of yarn to unravel a sweater. Some people with the resulting fear their grip on what’s “right” is slipping away, will promote their viewpoint to the destruction of their own relationships and on a grand scale, to the point of war. I’m not referring to human rights issues for which the answers are clear, although sadly enough, we can’t agree on those either. I’m talking about all of the general opinions we form in our daily lives and why. If we truly believe something, we don’t need to convince anyone else. Living it will suffice. We know this.

If we think we need to convince others, maybe our feelings have misled us and we need to re-examine a currently held view. We can ask ourselves what is our given opinion really based on, and where did we get it? When did we form it? Being honest with ourselves may be really surprising. Is it something worth hanging on to, even to our own detriment? It’s never too late to extend an olive branch and goodwill to others, to swallow our pride when we realize how little weight our opinions actually carry within our own heart and mind. And to accept how inaccurate they really are, flawed like every one of our fears. Of all feelings our fears push opinions on us the most.

So here’s to open-mindedness this holiday season.
Raise a glass to acceptance and tolerance all over the world.
Have a blessed holiday season…and in remembering those who’ve lost livelihoods, or in the most heart breaking of ways their loved ones, due to the ignorance of divisiveness, may we continue to believe that maybe one day all humankind will be of good will.

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