It doesn’t have to be a minefield of political correctness

It’s the time of the year when a good number of us start being really careful with what we say. Of course, in these days of “political correctness,” it is wise that that we are always cautious with what we say.

From my perspective, for some unknown reason, we have all lost our senses – common and humor- and that has put us in very awkward positions.

I was raised and am still a Christian. For my whole life, until just a few years ago, I told everyone I came into contact with, if the timing were appropriate, “Merry Christmas”.  All of a sudden it became politically incorrect to do so, as someone of another religion might be offended. I don’t understand that. Why should I be forbidden to wish you well? If you are Jewish and wished me “Happy Hanukkah,” I wouldn’t be offended.

The fact that you want the benefits of your beliefs granted to me, I would find to be a kindness.  When I wish you a “Merry Christmas,” it is meant as a way to celebrate this time of year. I know that literally it is tantamount to wishing a man named Christ happy birthday, but why should that offend someone? I am not asking you to believe something that isn’t part of your religious creed.  I am wishing you well – be happy – enjoy – smile – celebrate the season.

Hurt feelings

A few years ago I handled a complaint from an employee. She felt terrible because a co-worker in another department had refused her gift of some cookies, saying that she didn’t celebrate Christmas as her spouse was of a religion that didn’t do so.  The gift-giving employee was highly insulted by the perceived rudeness. I spoke with the employee who was ostensibly offended by the gift offering. She confirmed that she wasn’t of a different religion and that she hadn’t converted to her spouse’s, but she felt compelled to refuse the offering because her spouse would find it offensive. I decided mediation was the best way to handle the situation, because I didn’t perceive that the situation would result in any discriminatory complaints for the casino.

Both women joined me in my decorated-for-the-holidays-office. After both employees explained how each felt, we discussed ways that the situation could be resolved so that both were satisfied and they could continue to work together without hard feelings. The baker acknowledged that she respected the gift-refuser’s position, but that she hadn’t meant to offend her by offering some cookies that she had made for everyone. This employee was famous for her baking skills and gave away cookies and other baked goodies all year long.

Ultimately, the situation was resolved by one employee suggesting that she probably could’ve accepted the cookies, offering them to be eaten by others in her department so she wouldn’t need to take them home to risk offending her spouse. A simple thank you for having been remembered would have avoided the whole situation. The baker wouldn’t have felt insulted by her co-worker and felt the need to complain to me. The time could have been better spent by all of us if the societal climate were not such that the co-workers forgot their senses of humor and common.

December's many holidays

 A quick look at religious holidays in the month of December revealed a list of 20 days that could be named and wind up insulting someone if we all follow politically correct address. Islam, Wicca, Zoroastrian, Christian, Jewish, Buddhism, Orthodox Christian and Catholic Christian all have special celebrations. Islam celebrates Waqf  al Arafa – Hajj Day on Dec. 7. This is the Islamic day of observance when pilgrims pray for forgiveness and mercy, during the several day observance of Hajj. What would the proper wish be for someone? More importantly, how would one know that the individual was of the Islamic faith?

It is so unfortunate that harsh feelings develop over such things. I have written many times about the issue of respect – the lack of, as well as the need for. This issue seems to be the same thing – except that personal beliefs are so emotion-laden.

However, if we could accept that we are all entitled to our beliefs and let it go at that, we could get along so much better. It just seems that we need to renew our common sense and sense of humor. If someone wishes you, “Merry Christmas,” and you don’t appreciate it, rather than risking being offensive in return, how about just saying, “Thanks, I don’t observe, but you have a great holiday”? Or, “I’m sorry, but I observe Hajj, and I wish forgiveness and mercy for you.”

I think that kind of give and take is much more pleasant and politically correct. And, if someone gives you some cookies, just say, “Thank you,” and enjoy eating them.

An easy solution, of course, is to use the blanket, “Happy Holidays”. Is that a cop-out? Is it fair? Maybe.

As for me, I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.