Today in my quiet time, I was thanking Jesus for the things he has taught me about relationships.
Many of the lessons were learned the hard way. Sometimes thought I had learned a lesson only to fail the test when given a chance to practice it again. I couldn’t understand why I kept meeting the wrong people, why they mistreated me and why relationships didn’t last. What I’ve come to realize is that I was blaming the other person’s behavior for my reactions and telling myself negative stories about them to justify my feelings. I was feeding negative emotions by focusing on a few incidents instead of looking at the big picture of my life and what relationship with this person meant to me. I took my negative moods too seriously and so when I was down in the dumps, as we all are sometimes, I would blame the person and the relationship. Better to just step back and give myself space and time to feel better.
I could have saved myself a lot of time and heartache if I had simply read Day 36 of Tommy Newberry’s book, 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life. This is exactly the formula he lays out for the reader’s consideration.
First, we must own our negative emotions. He says, “you can justify all day long why you deserve to be upset, but what do you gain from that kind of mind-set?” Newberry points out that it is a common tendency in our society to blame people or events for causing us to feel and act in a certain way. The antidote for the negative spiral this creates in our joy and our relationships is to say, “I am responsible.” You’re not accepting legal responsibility or saying the person or situation didn’t contribute to the problem, but you are refusing to let circumstances or the actions of others determine your frame of mind.
Second, we can starve negative emotions. Newberry encourages us to step back from a negative episode and in the middle of the anger, hurt, or discouragement, tune in to the big picture. Remind yourself what is truly important. A change in perspective can interrupt negative momentum. In terms of a relationship we can decide if being right is more important than what we share with the person we love.
Questions he suggests we ask ourselves in these moments include:
- What is my goal here?
- What outcome do I want?
- Will my negative reaction move me toward my goal or away from it?
When you see the big picture, you can fully grasp that the situation is just a small part of what’s going on between you and the other person. This helps you reach the positive goals you want to achieve.
The third approach Newberry suggests is temporarily retreating from your issues. Sometimes, especially when you are in a negative mood or circumstances are trying, it’s better to just table a conversation or interaction for another time. This might be a good approach right now, for example, when the coronavirus pandemic has us locked in with loved ones for an unknown stretch of time and fears about ourselves, our family members, and the extra financial pressures that abound these days have us on edge. Maybe it’s not the best time to tackle marriage issues. A little space, a lot of grace and mercy might be the best policy right now.
Newberry’s suggested action for today is to consider a current difficulty or chronic unpleasant circumstance and write down three ways that you could accept responsibility for the way things are. The extra mile exercise is to teach today’s lesson on emotional control to another individual or group.
I choose you! 😊