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Holiday Blues

While most Christmas adages point to the joy of the season (e.g. it’s the most wonderful time of the year), this year I have been once again reminded that November and December are two of the most difficult months for millions of people. Feelings of loneliness and anxiety, a fear of missing out, painful reflection and overwhelming sadness during the Christmas season are so common there’s a special term for it—the holiday blues.

A simple search results in a myriad of possible coping mechanisms: limit consumption, volunteer, set boundaries and practice regular exercise. Notably, mental health experts across the board especially recommend what might be the most difficult task when facing the holiday blues: don’t isolate yourself. Reach for social connection, even when depression and anxiety tell you the only safe option is to stay home.

Even outside of the Christmas season, we are starving for social connection. Our very culture is geared toward self-absorption and loneliness. In a sermon a few weeks ago, one of my pastors talked about the lie of individualism. He said that this lie is rooted in the idea that as we move away from others—as we widen the distance between “me” and “you”—we become more real ourselves. It tells us that to have a meaningful identity, we must live with great emotional distance, we must live in an individual pursuit for wealth and prestige. Yet, this is the opposite of what scripture tells us. The Rabbi Joseph Telushkin wrote about this in his book Jewish Literacy:

…When God asks [Cain], “Where is your brother Abel?” he arrogantly responds, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” In essence, the entire Bible is written as an affirmative response to this question.

While a culture of individualism and self-isolation motivated by the holiday blues are clearly different, the response to both is the same: we are each other's keepers. It is when we engage in loving community that we most clearly reflect the triune, communal nature of God. As Thomas Merton wrote, “We do not become fully human until we give ourselves to each other in love.”

This Christmas, join me in considering what it means to be a justice-seeker motivated by a hope for radical, Christ-like community. When we learn to reject the lie of individualism, when we push ourselves to meaningfully connect with other people, how do our relationships change? How does our view of ourselves change? Who do we see more clearly? I know for me, my advocacy is richer and better informed when I am closely involved in meaningful community with others. I am less sad and less anxious. My faith is deeper. I find it easier to pray. So whether you’re trying to combat the holiday blues, want to resist a culture of individualism, or just recognize how good and biblical it is to love one another up close—practice reaching out to others. Connection is a gift we can’t do justice without.

Photo by Emily Bernal on Unsplash


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