Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 22, 2013


How to handle the hassle of the holidays


          Christmas – “Tis the season to be jolly.”  Yes, but it is also the season to be stressed. The hassle of the holidays can be so exasperating that we want to scream.

So if you are at the breaking point, let’s explore this thing called stress. 

          The word has a negative ring to it. Look at the words we use to define stress:  pressure, strain, hassle, tension, trauma, anxiety and worry. So stress is bad; right?

            Well, the truth is, stress is not all bad. We can, for example, be glad that we have issues that demand the very best that we can bring to the table. Final exams exert pressure on us but without that stress none of us would ever finish high school or college. Driving in bad weather is a hassle but the tension keeps us alert and helps us stay alive.

Stress, then, is a sign we are alive! The only people free from stress are either dead or insane. So the absence of stress is not the solution. To be alive is to experience stress. What we need then is the wisdom to manage stress.  

          Some years ago a lovely young psychiatrist patiently helped me understand why a bleeding ulcer had almost killed me. She convinced me that the ulcer resulted from the way I was handling stress.  

          Her words still linger in the corridors of my mind: “Ulcers can be caused by many things but my guess is that you are not handling your stress very well.” Tears filled my eyes as I admitted she was right. 

          Her advice made sense. “Take some time to rethink your priorities. Then live one day at a time trying to be faithful to your priorities. Focus on what is important to you and try to ignore the meaningless things that sap your time and strength.”

          I took her advice but added a bit of faith to it. Faith helped me deal with two mistakes I had been making. My first mistake was that I had tried in vain to be a Super Christian. And I had failed miserably trying to be a model pastor, a model father and a model husband. In each category I was a failure. Finally it dawned on me that public image is not as important as being a transparent, authentic human being who hurts and bleeds just like everybody else.

My second mistake was that I had not practiced what I preached. I told people to trust God but I had failed to trust God myself. I was in charge, not God. I was banking on my own cleverness instead of the grace of God. Finally the Lord helped to quit trying so hard and let him take over. It got easier once I became willing to say, “I can’t but He can – if I am willing to trust Him!”

          After that I did my best to stop trying to please people and began doing what seemed right to me in the eyes of God. It makes a powerful difference to realize that God, not other people, is your true audience.


          Pleasing people is a futile effort.  We make ourselves miserable by trying to live like other people think we should. To do so is to be enslaved by the expectations of others. Instead we need to get a firm grip on our own priorities and allow them shape our lifestyle. We have no control on what other people think; therefore we should give our energy and attention to doing what we believe is best for us.                    

It is not easy to ignore the meaningless little things that sap our time and energy. And to do so is a daily and lifelong task. The key is to “not sweat the small stuff.”  There in a few words is a great key to managing stress. Many issues are not worth a moment’s thought yet most of the fights we have are over insignificant things -- like forgetting to put the cap back on the toothpaste. Since life is too short to quibble about trivial matters we should learn to ignore frivolous things and move on.  

We would be wise to shorten the list of issues that trigger our anger button. It is foolish to become angry about the least little thing when it would take only a little effort to flush small irritations down the drain.

Laughter is often helpful. We can learn to laugh at ourselves for being so dumb as to fuss about a toothpaste tub cap. When we succeed we can pat ourselves on the back for a small victory over stress.

Since stress can kill us, or make us wish we were dead, we simply must find ways to manage it.  Though it is not easy it is possible. By managing stress we can replace hassle with joy during these wonderful holidays – and the result could be a MERRY CHRISTMAS!  + + +