In Colorado we often have a beautiful, white Christmas with 30+ inches of snow that shroud the season with a hushed aura, slowing life way down. Years ago, our very active teenage boys had to stay home from school, watching movies and playing games. It was a delightful way to welcome in the new year!

The new year is often accompanied by resolutions to read more, eat less, exercise more, blah, blah, blah. My only resolution was not to make any! Of course, by making that statement I immediately broke my resolution and was done with the whole thing in record time!

Being a counselor and a proponent of change, I have two new gifts I want to give this year. Ones I want to give regularly and generously.

The first gift is forgiveness. Anyone who says they have gone through the past year or the past week for that matter, without feeling some relational hurt is simply not paying attention. Some hurts are very minor and unintentional, while others are deep and deliberate. Regardless of the source or intensity, I suggest that it is our response that will either initiate healing or promote infection.

Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet of Hope College in Michigan reports, “emotional and physiological data suggest that a sustained pattern of unforgiveness over time could result in poorer health because of the negative psychophysiological states that accompany unforgiveness.” Simply put, resentment reduces my quality of life, increases the likelihood of illness, and sets me up for more negative circumstances.

Witvliet suggests that through forgiveness the opposite is true. We gain better physical, mental and emotional health as we learn to have a sustained pattern of forgiveness! No wonder God himself made it a building block of Christianity as revered in the Lord’s prayer… “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

The second gift is gratitude. When we focus on gratitude it begins to occupy more of the consciousness and plays a bigger role in how we experience life, and how we respond to it. Gratitude helps me look at my daily interactions as a gift, I begin to treat myself and others with more respect and dignity, and I experience increased joy.

Gratitude also effects others in your life. When my wife, Jan, praises me for certain behaviors I am more likely to repeat them. For example, if I share what is on my mind instead of sitting in silence and Jan says, “Thank you so much for telling me how you feel,” I am much more likely to break my silence again than if she said nothing, or worse.

If your spouse heard the words “thank you” more often than they heard words of failure or disappointment you might begin to see an entirely new marriage as the year progresses! The question might then be, “Which one of you changed?”

There is a Chinese proverb which states, “Whoever opts for revenge should dig two graves.” This gives me pause as I consider how much of my life I might surrender to bitterness and resentment unless I choose wisely.

As the slow days of the holiday season are shrugged off and the gears are put into drive for a new year, keep a deliberate pace when it comes to forgiveness and gratitude. You’ll be way ahead of the curve when it comes time to celebrate another Christmas season with your loved ones!