Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Most of "my ideas" are things I have learned from other people.

Sometimes the weirdest things can make us sit back and look at what we're doing and see things in a whole new light.

I once found a fortune cookie that said; "Do not lose your temper. No one else wishes to find it."

It knocked me back on my heels! I had never considered that when I "lost" my temper that indeed, someone else DID indeed "find" it.

Up to that point in time, I was a pretty hot-tempered person. That "fortune" caused me to think about what I was doing and How I was acting. It caused me to make a choice to control my temper.

No one "makes us angry". Anger is a feeling and we choose what we feel and what to do when we feel that emotion.

You don't think so? Well think back. Has there ever been a time in you life that you were so happy that nothing could rain on your parade? Perhaps you won something - a contest at school, a scholarship, someone you liked a lot told you they love you. Was there anything much anyone could say or do to burst your bubble? Usually not.

Now think back to another time. A time of loss. Perhaps a loved one died or was diagnosed with a serious illness, was in an accident. Perhaps you tried to accomplish something and failed at that attempt. Was there anything anyone could say or do to "make" you feel better? Probably not.

These are extremes, but that is my point. With the first one, we're so happy that anyone who is trying to be ugly to us, can't. We tend to just let it bounce off of us. We "excuse" them with, "they must be having a bad day." or "They're just feeling jealous." With the second one, we could win a million dollars and it wouldn't "make" us feel happy. Life is just too desperate at that point to really "care" about money or anything else. We are so wrapped up in the emotion of the time, that nothing much can be said or done to us that gets through to "make" us feel happy.

That's what I mean about other people not being able to "make" us feel something. What we feel is tied up with what we THINK.

If someone we don't particularly care for tells us they love us, does is cause euphoria? Uhm, no. (And we do well if we can hide our disdain and treat the person with kindness.) Why? Because we don't care for that person as a prospective mate. It's how we THINK about that person.

What if a stranger on the street blurts out; "That's an ugly outfit." Do we usually let it bother us. Not unless we also THINK it's an ugly outfit. Otherwise, most of us tend to THINK; "Well, that wasn't very nice of them to say that."

We can do the same thing with our anger. When someone says or does something that would normally "make" us angry, look for the reasons that we shouldn't be angry. When someone says or does something nasty instead of thinking "How dare they?", we can replace the thought process with "Perhaps they've had a really bad day." Someone cuts us off in traffic or doesn't let us in: "Perhaps they just didn't see me", instead of "They did that on PURPOSE!!".

It doesn't mean that we never "feel" angry, just that a lot of our anger is generated by negative thoughts of our own, independent of what others around us are doing. If we replace those negative thoughts, we can cut down - greatly, on incidents of "feeling angry".

Sometimes things really are "worth" being angry about. There are times when people do things that aren't right and cause grief in our lives or hurt our family. How do we handle that?

First off, when you mess up, how do you want people to treat you? Sometimes people do things and mean one thing, but we interpret it differently. It hurts our feelings. That's the time to confront the person with a simple; "That hurts my feelings".

I personally had that happen to me. Years ago, I was a missionary in Colombia, South America. I was with a group of missionaries. It was Christmas. We had just finished doing a program with the local people and were talking about what to do for our own Christmas. I got the bright idea of us singing some Christmas carols and exchanging a small gift. One of the others, a male, made a comment about how I always took charge. Well that hurt my feelings. (I'd been told many times that I was bossy.) I wasn't trying to be bossy. So I simply stated to him that his comment hurt my feelings. He was so astonished. And immediately corrected my impression. He wasn't trying to say I was being bossy, but rather that he thought I always had such good ideas.

What would have happened if I had not given him the opportunity to correct MY misunderstanding of what was said? Well, to this day, when I tought of this incident, I would have had hurt feelings. Instead, I can use this as an example of ME misunderstanding someone else and the need to ASK the person involved, when something hurts my feelings, what they meant. (Do NOT ask anyone else! How often has someone else had their own agenda and we've gotten sucked into it?)

So what if he really meant to hurt my feelings? Well, then that would have been HIS problem. I can choose to then think; "Well that wasn't very kind of him.", or "What a JERK." With the first, I keep my dignity with the second, I get angry and resort to name-calling (even if only in my head.) Do I WANT to be angry?

There ARE unkind people in this world. There are downright hateful people out there. There are control-freaks out there. Do we let them control us by "making" us angry?

I have someone who for the last 13 YEARS, has gone out of her way to make trouble for me and my family. There has been no doubt about it. People have gone to DFCS or the school board because of things she's said to them. I've found out because, later they've come to me and apologized and then named HER as the reason they were "so concerned".

Well, first, I've learned to stay away from her and to keep my kids away from her. She is no friend. Second, I've learned to go to people who "are in charge" and tell them the history of what's gone on. I've circumvented many a problem this way. When you are in a small group that has to interact and a new person comes in, it is sometimes helpful to "cover your booty". Talk briefly to that new person. Let them know that there's someone in the group that likes to get OTHER people to cause problems and to please not be influenced by this person. Then give details of what has been done. You don't need to name names. Sooner or later, this person will start stuff and then the new person(s) are forewarned. Then when the person follows their normal pattern, the person has exposed him/herself! All you have done is warn that there is someone who likes to do this. It avoids gossip while forewarning the new person.

I've learned to see the person who does this to me in the light of what a sad case she is. She doesn't control her own life, so she goes around trying to control the lives of others. I've learned to not respond in anger to her, but rather in a neutral way to her. I tried being friends with her and I've tried talking to her. She denies being involved with anything that has happened. It wasn't HER who was at fault. But 6 different people have named her as the instigator in 5 different incidents of trouble for me. And they all did it in passing. No one was trying to "blame" her, only they've all mentioned that they were concerned "after talking to her", but that they shouldn't have done what they did and they regret it. Would I forgive them? (Yes!)

What of people who kill family members? Who cheat on you when they're your spouse? Who cause a divorce by their constant bad behavior?

Yes, that does hurt (I've had to deal with all 3) No, it's not a good idea to pray to God to "get them". lol Though truthfully, I spend the first year after my divorce hoping that something would happen to the ex. (blush) Then one day, I realized that that that really wasn't a good way to be spending my time. I needed to leave him to a just God and to GET OVER IT! To do so, I had to learn to pray for the ability to forgive him. No, he didn't "deserve" it. (He's continued to cheat on the wife he now has.) He still does controlling things. (He STILL has our daughter, even though he was found guilty of contempt in court.) The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what HE does. I need to forgive him and get on with my life. Yes, I've cried an ocean of tears. Yes, he is in the wrong. But for me to survive as a kind, decent individual, I have to forgive HIM. I have to let it go. Otherwise, I can't move on with my life. And I would be full of anger. Anger that would spill over into all my other relationships.

Now that I have children, I am SO glad that I've had years to perfect "keeping" my temper. I would never wish to lash out at my kids in anger. I'm so glad that I had years of keeping my temper in a bad marriage. It helped to keep the fighting down to a minimum. (Though I'm sorry to say, we did fight and I didn't always keep that temper.) I'm so glad that I read that silly fortune cookie and stepped back and thought about how I chose to handle my emotions. Because how I chosen to handle my emotions has determined the kind of life I have lived. And the kind of life I have lived determines the kind of legacy I leave behind.

What kind of legacy will you leave behind? Will it be one of admiration for overcoming the trials of life or one of disdain for wallowing in your troubles? Will you be known for your kindness or for your temper-tantrums? The choices that you make daily determines your legacy. But the nice thing about life is that we can, at any moment, realize our mistakes and take action to correct them. Isn't that grand! We don't have to be perfect, but we can try to fix the things we see in ourselves that aren't up to snuff. And when we're busy fixing ourselves, we don't have a need to fix all the others around us. We can be generous and let them learn on their own timetable - just as we have. And those that we do have stewardship over (primarily, our kids) we can look at in a kind light. We then discipline from love, not anger. Then anger is not passed to the next generation. And to me that's the biggest reason of all to control myself. To give my kids a childhood that they can look back on and know that they were loved. Not one of being mommy's battering object. One that was full of laughter, not temper-tantrums (ok, well at least not from the "adult" in the house. All bets are off for the kid ones. lol)

Let us choose today to live lives of quiet dignity. Free from tantrums and full of laughter.

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