In “A Christmas Carol”, Marley’s ghost appears in shackles. The links are made from money, cash boxes, steel purses and ledgers. All reminders of how paying attention to wealth rather than people can enslave us rather than freeing us.
But the majority of people choose to shackle themselves with something far more binding than this. In fact there are two sets of shackles, one which relates to those ledgers mentioned above, and one that is the greatest anchor chain of all! The ledgers refer to our past.
For some this is a pleasant visit which happens from time to time, and which reminds us of how lucky we are and how much we have to look forward to. But sadly, for some this is a constant reminder of how badly life treats us and what we therefore can expect! A friend of mine commented that sometimes even happy memories can also act as a shackle. He was never happier than when facing a lecture hall full of students and has had to recognise that, although this was a great time, it is something in his past. In order to move on he has had to wave a fond farewell to his memories rather than cling to them with a little desperation.
However, there are many more people who diminish their lives by constantly looking backwards and reminding themselves of how they or others failed them and thus blighted their lives. They are shackling themselves rather than looking for new ways of succeeding.
It is rather like watching a driver constantly looking backwards or in the mirror instead of focusing on the road ahead. If you were in the car with that person driving then I am sure you would very quickly get them to look where the heck they were going and let things behind them look after themselves. That way you would all stand a much better chance of arriving safely.
That is all I will say about the ledgers of the past and instead turn to the even heavier shackles with which some of us bind ourselves. These are the chains of doubt, fear and a lack of self belief. If I could ban one phrase then it would be one that begins: “But I am just a…”
That phrase chills me to the bone. It shrieks of defeat, it sucks the very essence out of any desire to succeed. It is the white flag of surrender being waved even before anything is attempted. So, the next time you hear anyone start by saying “I am just a…” Please do you, me and everyone a huge favour. Ask them to stop, and then ask them to pretend that they are already hugely successful at…(whatever their dream is)!
Then ask them how it feels to be like that. Ask about what they enjoy the most, how much freer and more alive they are. Find out who they have become and what excites them most. Once they have painted their picture of success to you, ask them how they started to make their way there. And make them promise to abandon the phrase “I am just a…” until they can end it with “a successful painter/dancer/spouse/lover/person”
Then, my friends, they can be as modest as they want about their successes. At least we will be able to delight with them in their achievements rather than listening to an endless catalogue of reasons why they never ever achieved anything.
So, my Christmas message for you is quite simple. Look forward to the future, throw off your self imposed chains and be the spirits of Christmas to Come, filled with hope and bountifulness. May you have a Fabulous Festive Season and a Happy, Healthy and Fulfilling New Year Ahead!
P.S. The image is from a photo taken in Barbados entitled “Emancipation”