Letting Go of Guilt This Holiday Season

Betsy St. Amant Haddox

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Updated Nov 07, 2023
Letting Go of Guilt This Holiday Season

It’s totally acceptable to enjoy your holiday as it is.

Guilt can be one of those gifts that keeps on giving during the holiday season. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas, guilt knocks freely on our door at any given moment, arriving with all the flair of an uninvited house guest intending to overstay their welcome. 

Moms, I think especially, tend to fall prey to this lurking enemy each year. The holidays by nature bring a lot of pressure, and since we’re, you know—human—we’re going to fail. Mess up. Get it wrong. But instead of giving ourselves grace, we’re more likely to scoot over and make room for guilt to snuggle up close like a scratchy, wet blanket. 

This holiday, there’s a better way. Get rid of the blanket! The first step involves recognizing the difference between guilt and conviction. Guilt is accusing, negative, berating. Guilt often talks in a first-person voice, so in your own head, it sounds like you. “I can’t believe I did XYZ.” Guilt can also be a liar. It’s oppressive and condemning. 

Conviction, however, is from the Holy Spirit. It’s much more subtle, gentle, nudging. A gentlemanly voice, urging us toward repentance (where needed) and redirection.

2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV) says, "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."

Remember, you’re not perfect, and no one truly expects you to be. We can expect, however, to go into the holidays giving ourselves and others heaps of grace, while listening to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit and His wise counsel. 

Here are ten things you might feel guilty about this holiday season, and how you can let them all go quicker than Elsa singing in an ice tower:

1. Doing Too Much

It’s very tempting to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season—and even easier to over-commit yourself. You might be feeling guilty about how much you’ve put on your calendar to do, while everyone online urges you to cut back, minimize, and prioritize. There’s wisdom in that, but you know your family and your own schedule better than anyone else. If you want to pack in the fun activities and the holiday memories, go for it! Don’t let someone else’s schedule or stress level determine your own. If you feel like you committed to too much, pull back a little. If not, slip on the reindeer ears and enjoy the seasonal chaos! After all, it only comes once a year.

2. Not Doing Enough

The opposite side of the coin from overcommitting—under-committing. Maybe you’ve carved out so much white space that your calendar is simply rows of empty boxes. Guess what? That’s okay! You don’t have to feel obligated to do every event that’s offered. If going to the Christmas tree farm, the outdoor holiday market, and the big church production are too much for where your family is at emotionally and mentally this season, then don’t go—and don’t feel guilty about protecting your family’s wellbeing and your own heart. You’re not going to miss Christmas by cutting back on the activities. Just like in Whoville, it will come just the same. And maybe even more meaningful in the quiet.

3. Spending Too Much Money

Maybe your budget is bigger than usual this year, or bigger than the other people in your extended family, and you feel guilty for going all out. So long as you’re not putting your family’s finances at risk, enjoy the opportunity to spoil the people you love. It’s okay if they can’t reciprocate to the same level. Next year, the tables might turn, and you’ll be the one with a smaller budget. Giving is such a special part of the holiday season—don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for spending what you want on your loved ones. 

4. Not Spending Much Money

Some years, the holiday budget is lean if barely existent. I’ve been there, especially during my season as a single mom. It’s okay to get creative, make homemade gifts, or simply send a heartfelt card without a present. The thought is what counts, especially at Christmas, and no one will judge you or think less of you for being frugal this year. January is coming, and there’s no reason to put yourself in the red just to save face or meet an expectation. There are so many ways to gift from a budget, including making coupon books, offering acts of service like free babysitting or meal-prep, or writing a poem or song. Get creative—and no guilt allowed!

5. Not Personalizing Gifts

Some people have a knack for gift-giving and can somehow match presents with friends in a way that brings tears to their eyes every single year. If you’re not one of those people, it’s okay! Don’t feel guilty—you have other strengths. Giving someone a gift card or even cash is completely acceptable and always appreciated. Remember, it’s the thought that counts, whatever that gift looks like. Gifting is not a competition and doesn’t have to be an exhausting, drawn-out, stressed-over shopping excursion. 

6. Saying No

I’m one of those people who really struggles with saying no—especially during the holidays. It seems like there are so many opportunities to give to this charity, donate to this cause, volunteer at this soup kitchen…before you know it, you’re exhausted, and Christmas isn’t even here yet! Don’t feel guilty for turning down events, outings, or chances to give money. Prioritize what is important to you, and maybe choose just one or two things to participate in. (Or none, if you can’t spend the time or money this year!) 

7. Saying Yes

On the other hand, some people feel guilty for saying yes. They love picking up the slack and doing all the things that come up! But they tend to think that doing so makes others around them feel bad or ashamed, so they feel guilty, too. It’s a vicious cycle, and not one your holiday season needs. Ditch the stress and say yes to as much as you want this holiday season—it’s your holiday. If you can afford it, financially, mentally, and emotionally, then go. Do. Have fun!

8. Not being “Pinterest Worthy"

Some people have a gift for putting together elaborate Christmas trees and interior holiday decor worthy of a Parade of Homes route…and some don’t. Some make handmade, aesthetic wrapping paper, have coordinating gift boxes, and enough twinkle lights to power a small city while others simply throw up the store-bought tree they’ve had for a decade and hope the lights still work. That’s okay! Christmas doesn’t have to be an Instagram post. If your kids want to decorate the tree unevenly with a hodge podge of ornaments, let them! If your stockings on the fireplace don’t match, who cares? If your husband couldn’t hang the outdoor lights this year, no biggie. Christmas will still come—I promise! It’s totally acceptable to enjoy your holiday as it is.

9. Sharing Your Holiday on Social Media

There’s a lot of effort spent on reassuring women that they don’t have to be Pinterest-worthy, but sometimes, we forget about the women who are. There’s also nothing wrong with having a beautiful, straight-out-of-a-magazine home at Christmas time and posting it for others to appreciate. As long as your heart posture isn’t one of pride, share the photo of the tree that took you hours to decorate! Show off your handmade gifts and wrapping paper. Post a story about your glamorous front porch décor process. Make adorable goodie bags for your child’s holiday school party. Get the family matching PJs. If you enjoy those things and are good at them, there’s no reason to feel guilty about it this Christmas.

10. Enjoying Holiday Treats

‘Tis the season for leggings! If your jeans get tight this holiday season, don’t you dare beat yourself up. Enjoy the holiday treats because January is coming, and it’ll all be over. It’s not wise to binge or gorge, of course—but eat the pie, sister. Bake the brownies. Lick the spoon. Life is for living, and it can be pretty delicious! You can get back on a healthy eating plan soon enough. So shake the guilt, pour the eggnog if you’d like, and remember—all things in moderation. Including Christmas cookies!

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Kerkez

Betsy_headshotBetsy St. Amant Haddox is the author of over twenty romance novels and novellas. She resides in north Louisiana with her hubby, two daughters, an impressive stash of coffee mugs, and one furry Schnauzer-toddler. Betsy has a B.A. in Communications and a deep-rooted passion for seeing women restored to truth. When she’s not composing her next book or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can be found somewhere in the vicinity of an iced coffee. She is a regular contributor to iBelieve.com and offers author coaching and editorial services via Storyside LLC.