Why overcoming the Scrooge in all of us begins with gratitude.
One of my not-so-winsome Christmas traditions involves complaining to family members about the relentlessness of The Christmas Carol. Every year it seems there is another spin-off or remake of Charles Dickens’s classic. While I love the story, I am fatigued by the repetition. Ebenezer comes to his senses every December 25 but then reverts to being all Scrooge-like again in time for the next holiday season. Dickens penned this story 174 years ago—maybe it’s time for a new Christmas classic.
Still, even with my grumbling, I keep reading and watching The Christmas Carol or its variants most years. Some inner force draws me there even as my cortex complains.
Maybe one of the reasons that Scrooge has survived so long is that Dickens speaks to some primordial inner conflict that all of us know, and perhaps this inner conflict is even more ubiquitous than the movies and books and plays that I mutter about each Advent. The conflict between miser and benefactor, between thrift and munificence, is so familiar to each of us and powerful enough to keep us watching and reading Dickens year after year.
One part of us, like the miserly Scrooge, wants to live with fists closed, accumulating possessions even if it hurts others, focusing on our own goals and achievements, protecting ourselves by shutting out relational risk and the pain of the world. But another part, a better part, sees more complexity in the world, recognizes blessings, holds palms up to heaven, and gives time, empathy, and money to others as a reflection of gratitude for all the gifts life offers, including the gift of life itself.
If Scrooge persists in order to remind us of this inner tension, then perhaps I should be more patient, and even grateful, that …