“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
I have seen and Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” in all its forms. I read the book, I saw most versions of the movie (including the musical, which is my personal favorite), and have even seen modern stage plays of it. But there was something in it, until this holiday season, I had never figured out. Maybe it is because I didn’t want to see through the obvious story to the heart of what Charles Dickens was saying, but I now realize that many of us are our own “Scrooges”.
As most of us familiar with the story “A Christmas Carol” know, at its heart is the story of a mean and crotchety old man who has no friends and no interest in family. The only thing he cares about is his accounting business and money. He has lost his soul for life’s love and feels resentment for what life handed him. He harbors old grudges and is a workaholic.
I didn’t see it before, but Scrooge is depressed. He was mistreated in his early life. He lost the love of his life. He worked for people that bullied him and even though it is not shown, we can imagine what his parents were like and did to him. He let himself give up and hide away in his work and become a workaholic, which is a common side effect of depression. He was not treated well in his early life, so Dickens is really telling us what happens to anyone, Scrooge or another person, who is mistreated and develops a belief that life and the world is depressing.
Dickens must have known that psychologically, Scrooge is not right. That he sees everything bad and has lost the ability to see happiness and good. Again, this is a common problem in depression and bullied youth that are left untreated. Now Scrooge has grown up and he is not necessarily a bully as much as a lonely and unhappy person. It is almost as if he took his Oliver character and grew him up to be bitter like Scrooge.
It is interesting that many of the traits that Scrooge has as you read his story show this psychological issue to be there and that abuse in one form or another has molded him to be this aged man who really is just waiting to die. Dickens even shows us that as Scrooge sees both what his life is, what it was, what it can be, and finally what will happen if he doesn’t come out of his current state…a lonely death.
Then it struck me that I started this site to have my ghosts lead me down my path. I had harbored my past and let it control my future in both happiness, life satisfaction, and finally in anxiety and depression. My ghosts of my life past was my excuse for how I behaved as an adult. Because of what I went through as a child with my bullies, I was a negative adult with low self-esteem who always thought I had something to prove. Nothing was ever good enough and nothing I did, no matter if I was commended or not, met with my satisfaction. I wasn’t perfect and I wasn’t good enough. There was always an excuse to be negative.
“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
I was haunted by the ghosts of my bullies past and I let them be my reason for being the person I was. I didn’t let my past go and I didn’t think I could change. Now I watched “A Christmas Carol” probably more than 20 times, but I missed the real heart of the message that Dickens was telling me…telling us…it’s never too late and you are never too old to let go of the past and change. To let the windows open, the sunlight in, and be happy, as Scrooge is at the end of Dickens story.
Dickens lets us assume that the change is permanent and that he will no longer die a man alone with no family or friends. It’s never too late to let go of what you were, so that you can become what you should have been all along.
I love it! Dickens was a psychologist and I wonder if he even knew it. He shows us through ghosts of what we can and have to do to change. He allows, in this case, Christmas, to be the joy for Scrooge and the beginning of his new life. What a treat it is for me to have this realization that he is speaking to all who have been abused, neglected, and left bitter. It’s never too late to change who you are. To listen to the positive ghosts that show you what your life can be if you let go of the past and don’t allow it to haunt you any longer, just as Scrooge lets go of Jacob Marley and moves toward the positive side of what his life can be.
How many of us hold grudges? How many of us don’t talk to our family anymore? How many of us don’t think that life has any happiness and that we just exist? Don’t just exist, but live your life, no matter your age. This may have been Scrooges last opportunity to change and when he does, so does everyone around him. Don’t you think you can do the same? I did make my change about six months ago, and I haven’t looked back since. The ghosts of my bullies past are gone. It was a long time ago and I have a right to have a happy life and not be haunted by my past. I think each of us can make that choice, the same choice that Scrooge makes.
So, at this time of year, as Dickens concludes, “God Bless us, everyone”! And for us other faiths, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, Happy Bodhi Day, or whatever you celebrate I wish you to be happy this year. Turn that corner and make that change. I believe we all have the power that Scrooge had, to do that and make the world a better place.