What’s Your Lump of Coal?


sack coal

Holiday seasons are prime times for exalted expectations. Amid all the hype, images of impossibly happy families, outlandish claims for owning hundreds of products, or a desire to live up to other myths, we can easily become discouraged if we don’t see our own lives living up to the big screen.

A children’s story threatens that if we are not “good”, we will only receive a lump of coal. Early on we learn the power of pleasing others, especially those who can give us gifts, fulfill promises, and help us feel especially loved.

After we grow up, we do not believe these stories affect us. Still, the holiday season contains more episodes of depression and conflict than other times of the year. Some even question whether life is worthwhile.  hand coal

Inside us, there may be a darkness we ignore, a small hard space not lit by happiness, peace, or any other joys that we think everyone else has.  We, on the other hand, know our family relationships don’t sparkle, our jobs disappoint, or our friends want support we can’t give. We may not have the companion we want or the success we envisioned. We may be overlooked, ignored, or betrayed.

What is our lump of coal inside? Our brave smiles can hide a vague longing for answers.

If we look at it, perhaps imagine holding it in our hand, we can find out what will light it. burning coalA burning coal can give us both a warm glow and comforting heat.

Is it made up of beliefs we have accepted about what we “should” be or do? Is it  just fatigue?  It may be that once, just once, we’d like our families to get along. It usually comes from expecting ourselves to control, create or change something we can’t.

If we are ready, we can light our coal.  Strike these matches:

  1. Acknowledge it’s there.
  2. Understand how it came to be.
  3. Put it in perspective.
  4. Talk it out with others.

As children we didn’t understand that even the coal was a gift, useful in the fireplace where Santa came down. We all have a lump of coal but it isn’t related to our worth.  We can toss it out, light it, or accept it and move on. Either way, it doesn’t have to weigh down our hearts this holiday.

present coal

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