The emotions of hurt and anger can wreck havoc if left unchecked. It happens over and over again.
Someone says something or does something and we become hurt or angry – or both.
Without taking time to cool off or think – much less pray – we respond. Oh, do we ever respond!
We say things that ought to not be said. We do things that ought to not be done. We respond in ways we ought to not respond.
In our fit of hurt, anger, or disappointment, we want to be vindicated for our pain. We want to punish the other party and throw dirt right back into his face.
We don’t bother to take the time to think or pray because, after all, we are the ones who are right. If we are the ones who are always (or even mostly) right, there’s a problem. The problem isn’t the person who hurt or upset us. The problem is us.
Really. When was the last time you lashed out? How much time did you give yourself to cool off before your whip-lashing occurred? Did you go to the Cross and ask your Savior for wisdom (and for grace)? If you didn’t, that’s a problem that is more you than it is him (or her).
It happens daily on social media. We’ve seen family feuds broadcast for everyone to watch. I call it Drama City. Folks post things like, “I am so ticked right now.” Their social media friends reply with words such as, “I’m so sorry. What happened?”, “Oh dear, hugs to you!”. Instantly, the vindication escalates. Sometimes other family members retort just as quickly and the conflict is aired in front of friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Is that really what we should do? Nope. It surely isn’t.
It happens in snail mail. A note or letter is written, addressed, stamped and sent before the writer takes the time to consider what it is that causes him/her to feel upset. The anger or frustration is sparked, and instead of allowing the flame to go out, we fan it by retorting on paper.
It happens via e-mail. It’s so easy to give a response and hit”send” without reading and re-reading what we’ve written. It’s easy to skim through the other person’s e-mail without really reading what is being said. Before taking the time to think or to pray, we type out a response, hit “send” and cyberspace delivers it to the receiver’s inbox within a matter of seconds.
It happens in person. A tongue-lashing is given in a moment of consternation. The person whipping with his tongue hasn’t considered whether the person he is chastising actually intended to cause pain; nor has he considered whether or not he really understands what happened or whether there’s another side to the story. We’ve all fallen short in this area in one way or another. We may become passive aggressive and our remarks are lost on others but completely understood by the person we’re confronting. We may attack our foe in front of other people who have no idea what’s going on. We feel justified and vindicated when others listen in on how wrong the other person has been.
It happens in our refusal to participate. We’re like the child who visited another home and, when the kids there didn’t want to play what he wanted to play, he picked up his toy ball and went home. “If you won’t play my way or if you do something I construe as unfair, then I’m done playing with you,” is what his actions said. We boycott events and activities because we didn’t get to help with planning the event, someone didn’t take our suggestion, our feelings got hurt the last time, or because someone we don’t like has been invited to the event. It happens in churches, in families, and in our communities. We think that if people don’t want to play our game, we’ll just take our ball and go home! There’s another word for that and it’s called pouting. Pouting is really just an attempt to make someone else pay for our pain or anger.
The point is that when we’re hurt or distressed, we need to decide if we’ll follow our human, natural course (lashing out in response) or choose another route. Believe me, there’s a better way.
Learning to respond in the best way is a journey. Sometimes we get off track, and sometimes we stay the course.
Here’s what I try to practice when someone has caused me pain.
- Consider the source. Does the person really understand my situation or dilemma or are they known to slaughter without consideration? If the person is a slaughterer, then I choose to be like a duck and let it run off my back. Nope, I didn’t say it’s easy. It’s a journey.
- Consider the evidence. Is there any hint of truth to what the person has said (or done) to me? Truth be told, sometimes our desire to find vindication rises up in us simply because there’s a shred of truth and we don’t want to admit that truth. (Just a little touch of pride and a little bit of self hanging around there.)
- Consider wisdom. Ask God to give you wisdom. While I’d really rather call someone and vent, I am learning to pray first. That’s something we all should do. Have you dropped to your knees and asked for wisdom in how to respond before you lash out privately or on social media? Can God bless the way you want to respond?
- Consider the advice of someone you respect. Have I asked anyone else to approve what I am about to say with the click of the “post” or “send” button? If we don’t want to ask anyone else, there’s a reason – and I’m here to tell you that it’s probably not a good reason. Many, many times, my husband has encouraged me to wait a day. I have never been sorry I listened and received his approval before I sent a response.
- Consider time as my friend. I give it time. When you’re fired up and ready to aim darts, ask yourself if you’ve given it enough time. Will you really be as angry tomorrow as you are today? Get your temper – and your blood pressure down first, then come up with a response. Write your response. Put it aside and wait again. We can allow time to soften us and our response. Allowing time for reflection also gives us time to listen to God’s Spirit since we should be asking for wisdom. How can God or others give us wisdom if we aren’t willing to wait?
Have I arrived there yet? Nope. I’ve lost a few battles, but I’m determined to win the war. Each time I win, I become stronger. Each battle won gives me more sure footing for the next one.
This I know: when I follow these steps, I’m wearing the right armor for battle.