“Merry Christmas,” I said. As the words escaped my lips I began to second guess myself. Would he be offended? Does he celebrate Christmas? What is his religion again? He graciously said, “Thank you but we don’t really celebrate Christmas in my house.” Oops. He wasn’t being rude and he wasn’t upset that I had wished him a Merry Christmas. He didn’t yell at me. He didn’t even look at me scornfully. In fact all the normal indicators that I have offended someone were absent, which led me to believe that in fact I had not offended him. That was the end of the conversation. We said goodbye and proceeded to the rest of the day’s business. It was the first time this year I had wished someone a Merry Christmas so I had not yet had a chance to fully review my 2013 “Wishing People a Merry Christmas Policy.”
We live in a world where we can second guess ourselves for something as simple as offering a blessing to someone. Even as I write this I concern myself with how it will be received. Heaven forbid I offend someone…wait can I say heaven? What if people don’t believe in heaven? Will the expression make sense?...you see my point.
The media has made the Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays issue bigger than it really is. This time of year I hear people all around wishing one another a Merry Christmas. I have yet to see tears, clenched fists or verbal tirades. Does that happen? Perhaps. I haven’t seen it. Strife, conflict and politics makes for better news that respect, patience and grace, so the countless peaceful interactions are overlooked, while the comparatively few clashes are magnified.
When I wish someone a Merry Christmas I am not saying she has to believe what I believe. I am not saying he is right or wrong. What I am saying is that I want the best for you. I want you to be healthy, and prosperous, full of peace and joy. If that offends you I sincerely apologize.
I have offended many people. It is unavoidable. I don’t say this to be callous and I think we should make every effort to live at peace with those around us, but I don’t want to be so concerned about offending someone that I avoid wishing him or her well. That would be a lousy world to be a part of.
Aristotle is quoted as saying “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” This quote captures the inescapability of criticism. If we wish to avoid offending people the same tactics can be applied. To avoid offending people say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.
I will gladly and humbly apologize for all of the times I am selfish, inconsiderate, arrogant and rude. What I won’t apologize for is wishing another human being the deepest blessings. You shouldn’t either. So to you dear reader and to your loved ones: Have a Merry Christmas.