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December 20, 2011 / ethanwolcott

What We Dread Most

Morgan Feddes

The end of the year is notorious for many things. Among them: Stress. Top [insert number here] Lists of the holiday season. Late last month, Consumer Reports combined the two, creating a list of America’s Top Holiday Dreads.

The list itself is pretty much what you’d expect — after all, half of the holiday season is seemingly spent ranting about the stresses of the holidays at our supposedly stress-free parties. Crowds and long lines tops the list; gaining weight around the middle and on the credit card  tied for second. Other typical complaints are on there — Christmas music, travelling, shopping for gifts, and so on.

But I was more interested in the bottom of the list. At number ten: “Having to be nice.” Fifteen percent of respondents said that was one of their top holiday dreads.

I doubt that most of these respondents are scrooges eleven months out of the year, but  I have to wonder what they thought being “nice” entailed. Faking kindness and happy enthusiasm at seeing Great Aunt Bertha at the annual family party? Offering a polite smile to the Salvation Army bell ringers whether or not you have change to drop in the bucket? Saying “Hello” to the neighbor down the street whose outdoor lights can blind airline pilots at 20,000 feet? Giving up that parking spot at the mall to the minivan packed with a harried mom and five kids?

Now, perhaps I’m a bit old-fashioned, but I always thought being nice was something we were supposed to do beyond the bleak midwinter. As a Christian, I believe everyone has inherent worth. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll like everybody all the time, but that does mean I need to treat everyone with politeness, respect, and love. (Or try to; admittedly this is much, much easier said than done.)

I realize the holidays are a time where we place special emphasis on love and care for others. But what does it say about us when a decent percentage says they dread being nice for one season in the year?

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