H0lidays are a time when people come together as a community for connection and celebration. We share meals, trade gifts, sing songs, watch favorite shows, and generally try to enjoy the relationships we have with each other.
And in that spirit, I must make the following request to one and all: “don’t be a dick”
Holidays inherently invoke religions themes. The word “Holiday” itself derives from the Old English for “holy day.” The problem is, that when it comes to belief or non-belief, there are many people who can’t tolerate others not sharing their views. And so what should be a joyous occasion that brings people together can quickly degenerate into what is essentially mockery and bullying.
Everybody thinks their beliefs are true. Everybody believes they can present a proof for said belief, and when pressed, everybody can poke holes in the other person’s proof. In the end, the real proof doesn’t lie in the name of your God, the names of your gods/goddesses, or your non-belief in a god, it lies in how you treat other people. If you can hold your belief and not harm another, and if you can respect the right for others to hold their beliefs in peace, the world is better for you being in it. But if you have to impose your beliefs on another, or mock another for having different beliefs, you’re kind of a dick. If you find yourself walking a grey area between dickishness and non-dickishness, I have some useful tips to help you negotiate your way and avoid being a dick on the holidays.
1) Knock off the “War on Christmas” crap. Other people asking you to recognize that they have their own beliefs does not equate to them attacking yours. The reason why people have started using the phrase “Happy Holidays” is not that they want to destroy Christmas, it’s because they don’t know who does celebrate Christmas, and who celebrates one of the many other holidays that occur in this season. If they know you, and know which holiday you celebrate, chances are people will wish you enjoy that holiday.
2) If you see something happening that could offend you or someone else, say something. When you do this, start out by being polite, and then progress from there. People, especially people in the minority, often feel that they can’t stick up for themselves because they feel alone, and so they just take it. Chances are, if you are noticing there is something wrong, other people are too, and you are all waiting for someone to else to say something.
3) If someone points out that something you said was offensive, apologize and move on. People make mistakes all the time, and people don’t always realize the effect of the things they say. If a person is suggesting that something you said was offensive, a simple “I did not intend to offend and I will take the statement back,” is all you need to fix it. Essentially, when a person states that you made an insulting statement, you are given a choice between a human being and a statement. Dicks choose words over people.
4) Be careful of what you say in the first place, especially with jokes. Every bully claims that their mocking comments are just jokes, but that doesn’t mean that the many suicides we have recently been seeing were just the result of people not having a sense of humor. There are also a lot of jokes whose sole purpose is to propagate prejudicial stereotypes. It’s easy for humor to become hurtful. In fact, one of the things laughter does is short circuits shame, such as the shame a person would normally feel when hurting someone else. If you want to walk the gray area with humor, tread carefully. If your joke offends somebody, apologize. If it really was just a joke, you shouldn’t be so invested in it that you would allow someone to be hurt by it. But if you feel the need to defend a hurtful joke by tooth and nail, then frankly, that’s a sign that you did mean it, and you’re acting like a dick.
5) Finally, there is a lot of overlap with the holidays being celebrated. Yes, some traditions from some groups were borrowed from others. Yes, some holidays are ancient while others were created recently. And yes, some holidays were designated for more symbolic than historical reasons. You could choose to use that info to play the “my holiday is better than your holiday game,” but if you’re going to do that, you’re a dick. The alternative is interpreting this overlap as a way that the many beliefs are coming together, that the many similarities come about because we are ultimately all one people, and we are being drawn into something bigger, a central humanity that is greater than the smaller identities we carve out by our varied beliefs.