You don’t have to always take the bait!

Note: This column was originally posted on Christmas Eve only to disappear into the ether. Leave it to my intrepid commenter Jean Lindsay to somehow find it. Thanks Jean. I didn’t have the energy to rewrite it!

As Christmas approaches, many far-flung family members will find themselves reunited under one roof for perhaps the only time of the year. While this should be a joyful occasion, it is often marred by the reawakening of negative emotional patterns.

This can be even more likely in families where there has been a divorce, which nowadays is practically everybody. At such times, when even I might be tempted to lash out emotionally, I am reminded of the best advice I ever received, “You don’t always have to take the bait!”

This wisdom was imparted to me by one of the lawyers that helped me through my own divorce about 10 years ago. It’s a perhaps a corollary of what is known as the Serenity Prayer:

“God. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The acceptance of the idea, that there are certain things about my antagonist, or the situation we are in, that are beyond my power to change can finally bring a little peace of mind.

I think the same philosophy should be applied at other levels of life. For instance, in politics it is helpful to understand that there will always be liberals and conservatives and that they are not likely to disagree about many things.

Therefore the wise person refuses to take the bait that is constantly being offered by the other side and refrains from pointless political dispute. Otherwise all political dialogue will soon descend to the level of shoe-tossing or worse.

On the international level, we also have a great deal of baiting going on, and recurrent patterns of strife and violence, especially between different ethnic and religious groups. Again, it would be beneficial to all concerned if there could be a little more acceptance of what can’t be changed.

From your living room, to the halls of Congress, to the councils of nations, let peace prevail this Christmas.

One response to “You don’t have to always take the bait!

  1. Of course this taking the bait business goes all the way back to Adam in Eden. Myself, I would have passed on the apple and held out for chocolate. It’s all in your point of view. One man’s bait is another man’s answer to a prayer. It’s not just a question of practicing passive aggression during the holidays.

    When one is “lying low” as it were, one has to keep a keen eye on the prize – that thing that is more worthy than responding to someone’s provocative phrase or behavior. To say that the goal should be peace at Christmas in the family or in the world has nothing to do with, well, chocolate. Where’s the carrot? When the aunt who has disliked you since birth sashays in your direction only because the buffet is behind you, her immediate goal is food. If you stand in her way, her first oral gratification may be a shot at you off her starboard bow. She’s been shooting you down for years. She doesn’t bother baiting.

    In all honestly, the only sure-fire way to avoid consternation at Christmas and the other high holidays is to either limit contact or to avoid it altogether. Statistically, after Christmas, the wards at our mental health spas are filled to capacity with people who thought that the better part of valor was to gather their wits and pack off for destinations over the river and through the woods.

    I am opposed to exposing myself to button pushers any day in the calendar year. In government, people with access to THE buttons start wars; in families, these people are equally deadly. Christmas with well chosen friends – ah, now that’s more like it. Friends know you like chocolate; friends don’t know where all of the buttons are. Now there’s a golden goal to keep in mind as a competitive cousin glares at me from her seat next to grandmother’s throne.

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