To get in, St. Peter tells them, they must present something associated with Christmas, so the first man pulls out his wallet and produces a picture of the Virgin Mary and he is ushered straight in.
The second man fumbles around for a while and eventually produces a scrap of wrapping paper that has an image of the three wise men on it. The gatekeeper nods his head and lets him through as well.
Then the third man reaches deep into his pocket and pulls out a pair of red and green knickers that have images of reindeer and snowmen on them.
Fascinated, St Peter asks, ‘But how do these represent Christmas?’
That’s it; that’s my Christmas gift to all of you: one lousy joke.
Well, that’s it aside from a suggestion for a great gift you can give to your whole family, and to your friends, and to everyone else you come in contact with as well.
The thing is, though, you would have to give it to yourself first.
This thought was inspired by an e-mail I received recently from a guy in California who teaches people to play the guitar by recording lessons onto DVDs and peddling them over the internet. What the e-mail said, basically, was: cut yourself a break.
The point he was making was that we all tend to be our own worst critics and he related a story about how he recently came off stage after a live performance thinking he’d really stank the place out only to be told by several friends that he had never sounded so good. Then he said this kind of thing happens to him all the time, and he thinks that is because after we’ve been doing something for a while it is natural for us expect ourselves to be a whole lot better than we have any right to be at that point in our development.
I see this quite often with my own guitar playing and with my daughter’s. I get down on myself because I’m not nearly as good as she is at hearing the beat and changing cords in time with the music, while she gets down on herself because she can’t perform a song as well as the person who made the original recording.
Pretty unreasonable, but normal; and I have the great advantage of seeing my own actions reflected in my daughter’s so I can see how this perfectionist mindset can take the fun out of the things we do, supposedly, for fun. The thing is though, an overly serious, overly critical attitude can take the fun out of anything, including our work and it can make us no fun at all to be around.
So starting this Christmas season, and then hopefully continuing right through 2013 and beyond, why don’t we all give ourselves a break and just try to have some fun. That might sound like an invitation to cop-out, but you know what? The best way to have fun doing anything is to do it as well as you can and to enjoy the effort as much as the result.