Can you think of a Christmas when you did or said something you would give anything to take back? Or, maybe a Christmas when you made a decision you desperately regretted? Do you think back on past Christmases and wish you had not taken them for granted? Would you give anything to have one more Christmas with a loved one who is no longer here?
Christmas is said to be the most wonderful time of the year – and, it is wonderful because of the giving spirit, the togetherness, and the warmth of memories. To some, however, Christmas brings up negative emotions. It is a reminder of poor decisions or evokes painful childhood memories.
Whether we want the responsibility or not, we have the power to plant sweet or bitter seeds in our loved ones’ memories.
Heading into this Christmas week, we can take special care to avoid regrets – especially those regrets that involve the ones we love.
- Say what you need to say. You love your cousin, do you not? You want to tell him you love him, right? Why do you not say it? Perhaps he will look at you weird. Maybe he will not say it .. and that will hurt. Is it easier to leave the relationship alone? If you need to say something to avoid regrets, say it. When my grandfather died, my cousin, David, was deployed and not able to come home for the funeral despite his best efforts. After that experience, he would never leave my grandma’s presence without telling her he loved her.
- Consider doing something new if it will bless someone you love. A few Christmases before she passed away, my grandma requested that we all sing at our Christmas Eve celebration. Having never “enjoyed” that tradition before, I was afraid it would be awkward for everyone – so, I did not make it happen. If she were here now, I would certainly make it happen.
- Before you make a decision, ask yourself, “Will I be glad I made this decision in 10, 20, or 30 years?” or “Will I regret this decision in 10, 20, or 30 years?” When faced with a decision, it is wise to look ahead. In 2026, you will not care what you had for dinner tonight, but you might care how you spent your Christmas this year. “I chose to go to a party with my friends instead of spending Christmas Eve with my parents and grandparents. I did not realize it would be Grandpa’s last Christmas.”
- Slow down and drink it in while you can. Just like a wedding day, Christmas can feel like one big blur. Experience it fully and take mental pictures along the way.
- Decide who will get your time and attention over the holidays. Once, I spoke to a bitter pastor’s daughter and she talked about all the sacrifices they had to make for the ministry. Years later, I spoke to a different pastor’s daughter who loved her father’s ministry. What was the difference? The first daughter came in second to her father’s ministry (at least she felt that way) and the second daughter came before his ministry. Are you properly prioritizing the people in your life?
- Shop with purpose instead of simply to fulfill an expected obligation. Gift-giving should be optional; it should be something we want to do, not something we are obligated to do. This year, let love motivate your shopping endeavors instead of obligation. This also may affect the quality of your gifts! Ask these questions before gift shopping.
- Do not allow pettiness to rob you of your holiday. Due to hurt feelings and regrettable actions, two of my Christmases were almost completely ruined. By the grace of God, everything was straightened out by Christmas Day, but the negative events almost robbed us of a peaceful Christmas. After that, we became more vigilant. Most fights are rooted in pride and can be avoided. (Note: Participating in charity events as a family during the holidays often help cut down on petty )
With just a handful of days left until Christmas, seriously consider what you want to get out of this holiday season; and, more importantly, consider what you want to give. When it comes to taking family time for granted, I am as guilty as the next person; but, after saying goodbye to so many loved ones recently, I am reminded that we are not promised next Christmas.
Few of us will die with no regrets, but let us strive to have as few as possible. In our later years, it will be the holiday memories and family traditions that warm our hearts – not the overtime we worked or the TV shows we watched. Decide today – right now – that you will leave the 2016 Christmas season with no regrets.
Are you typically happy with your Christmases?