The Christmas Truce: A Life Lesson from 1914

It was December 24th, 1914; the first Christmas Eve of World War One. After five months of war and countless lost lives, a one-day truce began between opposing British and German troops.

It started that day around 8:30pm when the Germans troops hung lanterns, called out Christmas greetings to their enemy and began to sing carols loud enough for everyone to hear. As British soldiers heard the well wishes and joyous singing, they cautiously joined in from their side.

The Christmas Eve celebration eventually came to a close. However, as the sun rose on Christmas Day, something even more unusual happened.

German soldiers began popping up out of their trenches, walking out into no man’s land and shouting, “Merry Christmas” in English. As the British men looked around, and to their amazement saw that their enemy was unarmed, a few courageously left their own trenches and returned the sentiment.

Soon the dangerous grounds that had once separated the British and German troops were full of Christmas cheer. In the midst of war, enemy soldiers became friends and even played sports and exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food and souvenirs.

This joy, however, did not last long. Christmas passed and the ceasefire came to an end.

What Happened?
So how did a truce suddenly happen between men who were only moments before trying to kill each other? Both sides began the fight as members of their own group with different perspectives, goals and ideologies.

But war was something new to them and because of that, it was easily overruled by something older and more meaningful: Christmas.

The men began to identify with their enemy because something more unifying ran deeper than war. On that day, the British and the German soldiers had something in common and as their paths crossed with the story of Christmas, they made a dramatic change in behaviour.

The Life Lesson
We are often at war, at least to some degree, with either ourselves or with other people. This may be the conflict we feel when we sabotage our goals by doing something we know we shouldn’t, or the anger and confusion we experience when we can’t see eye-to-eye with another person.

What’s the source of all this conflict? In short, it’s opposing stories.

In the case of World Ware One, the British and German soldiers held the opposing stories of their national identities, which created an “Us vs. Them” mindset. However, they changed their behaviour when something more unifying and meaningful came up.

In a similar way, when you discover or create a more powerful story within yourself, you can create previously impossible change in your life and relationships.

For your life:
If personal transformation is your goal, then you need to align your inner stories using what I call, The Four Story Formula. This means identifying and believing the truth in four key areas:

  1. Identity: Who you are
  2. Values: What matters most
  3. Worldview: How the world works
  4. Pathways: The best ways to live

When all four stories empower you and point in the same direction, your actions begin to change and you find lasting success. I’ll write more about this formula in the future.

For your relationships: 
If you’re seeking to restore harmony in a relationship, then seek to connect around something you both value. In the case of the Christmas Truce, it was a meaningful holiday. For you, it may be a charitable cause you both love, an outdoor adventure that excites you or the ritual of cooking a delicious meal together.

The right story can really be anything. The key is that you and your loved one choose to unify yourselves around what you have in common, rather than whatever differences may exist.

It’s Your Turn
If enemy troops could do it in 1914, surely you can do it today.

What story will you choose?

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