What did Dickens really show us in his famous Christmas story? Is it really about an old man who had given up hope in the joy of life, or is there a deeper lesson for us to learn?
Within us all is that crooked nosed humbug, Ebenezer Scrooge. Haven’t we all said “humbug” to neighbors who might not be able to speak our language, or “humbug” to those who put their hand out for a donation at the street corner?
Haven’t we all been guilty of pointing our own bony fingers and saying “I don’t feel like giving to you, I don’t feel like loving my odd family members and I certainly don’t feel love for those who don’t see eye to eye with me?”
Didn’t Dickens’ depiction of immortal Scrooge really describe a part of all of us? Even so, what is the real magic of this story?
Poor old Ebenezer taught us that the ghosts of the past in our own lives need to be forgiven and released. We all have ghosts… regrets, remorse, hurts from childhood. They haunt us in our sleep and follow us to the day we die, unless we wake up and see them for the thieves that they are. They are the bad dreams of Scrooge and ours as well.
We can make amends to others or forgive those who hurt us. We can learn lessons, change negative perceptions and become a better person. Perhaps we can’t whoosh it all away “in one night” but with a change of heart, a shift in how we view others, ourselves and the world, we can free ourselves up to be more alive in the present moment.
Speaking of the present, we all have ghosts here as well. Many of us work in jobs we dislike or live in relationships that have been dying a long protracted death with no intervention occurring. We do not fully pursue our dreams because we fear they will not manifest.
The spirits of today are the “I wishes”, the “I regrets” “I can’t” and the “If onlys.” But as Scrooge, we can finally believe and toss these robbers of our happiness a shilling for their attempts to keep us safe (and small) but bid them a firm, “goodnight.”
The ghost of Christmas future was the most frightening to Scrooge. Dickens painted this apparition as a black, silent, yet fearful vision. It frightened poor old Ebenezer to death, right to his gravesite, to an empty stone, to his own mortality.
Then something happened to our friend Scrooge. The chains that had bound him were tossed off. He opened the window of his soul and found that Christmas day had not passed.
His immortal words rang loud, “The spirits have done it all in ONE night,” he bellowed. His shift of perception, his change of heart changed everything in his life…. Everything.
Welcome the ghosts who haunt you and listen to their words for you… “Life can be changed! You can be a new Man or Woman! You deserve to be happy, to help your fellowman.” Is it Christmas day in your life? Or, will you be haunted for a bit longer? The choice really is yours you know… it isn’t too late, if Scrooge’s ghosts could do it in a single night, so can yours.
Steven Mundahl is President and CEO of Goodwill Industries in western Massachusetts, professor of leadership effectiveness at Bay Path College, and author of The Alchemy of Authentic Leadership about how true authentic leadership is an “inside job”. www.alchemyofauthenticleadership.com