Who's the Boss of Me?
My heart pounded and my face flushed. I could feel my shoulders tighten and my fists clench. Though I had been ready for bed, I was now filled with angry energy that prevented sleep.
What caused my anger? The easy answer is that an unpleasant interaction with one of my children led to my rapidly rising blood pressure.
But the truth is that my response to it, rather than the actual conversation, is what riled me up. I played and replayed in my head the comments I perceived as unfair and ungrateful, dwelling on the way those words impacted me.
I can’t bear one more complaint. We work so hard, watch the budget closely, and devote so much of our resources to their needs and wants. No matter what we provide, it is never good enough. All the opportunities and support go unnoticed. I’m so tired, and for what?
So went the tape inside my head. It’s like I had written a script for myself, and then rehearsed it over and over. As those thoughts were repeated, they began to sink deeply into my heart, blossoming into destructive emotions.
Later I realized I have developed a habit of dwelling on hurts and conflicts. I allow an argument from 7:00 to live on in my mind, so that it spoils 7:30, 8:00, 8:30 and beyond.
Too many times, I take my sulking one step farther and behave based on my “how I’ve been wronged” script. The scenes play out something like this:
A comment from a friend that touches a nerve = several days with no texts.
A complaint at the dinner table about the meal I made = dishes stacked and cupboards closed with more force and noise than needed.
Husband missing a family event I felt was important = withdrawn silence.
Even if I’m not talking, my message at these times is loud and clear, “You are in charge of my level of peace or contentment today. Your choices determine how I act. You can be the boss of me.”
If these scenarios sound familiar, take heart, my friend. It doesn’t have to be this way, for you or for me.
Though I can’t determine the words and actions of other people, the rest of the equation is under my control. I have the freedom to choose my actions, my thoughts, and my words. I can be the boss of me.
Or can I? Can you?
In our human nature, we struggle to choose healthy responses. Our words, whether they be silent thoughts or spoken statements, aren’t always life-giving words. As much as we don’t like to be controlled by others, we’re really not very good at controlling ourselves.
At first this may seem discouraging, but there is actually a real “win” here. When we realize that our own resources aren’t enough, we are reminded to call upon two priceless resources we have as believers.
We have a Helper, the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus promised his disciples that He would be sending the Spirit to teach them and remind them of what He had already said (John 14:26) and to guide them into truth (John 16:13). Later, Paul reminded Christians that through the Spirit they would exhibit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control! (Gal 6:22-23) That same Spirit is willing to do those things for and through us today.
We don’t need to rely on our wisdom and words. We have the Word of God, which is useful, among many things for “training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Oh, how I need this support - in so many areas of my life, but especially in handling tough conversations. And I’m finding that if I am willing to admit my need for help, God is gracious to give it.
I’ve been praying and seeking better ways to talk about sticky subjects with my teens, so I can avoid those heart-pounding moments of anger described above, or the soul-sick feelings of regret. The first answer I received to that prayer was a reminder of this phrase from the book of James, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Easier said than done! But I’m beginning to experience some tiny victories, as I continue to ask the Spirit for help.
That series of small changes has been the second answer to prayer. Times I’ve asked a clarifying question, or bitten my tongue rather than fire off a response. A calmer conversation or two, with less hurt on both sides. Through the process I’m learning truths I can apply to far more than just parenting.
Letting other people rule my emotions robs me of precious time I can’t regain.
I own my responses, but I am not on my own. Neither are you. We don’t really need a boss, but we do need a Helper. Thanks be to God, we have one. He will free us from being at the mercy of out-of-control emotions (ours or someone else’s), if only we will ask.