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I told my friend I think it’s easier for me to be a Christian when I’m not around my family. For whatever reason, Christmas time usually has a few episodes where I find myself verbally reacting before thinking. I get fired up over differing opinions or if I feel misunderstood.
Minutes after my immature reaction I always think, “If I would have waited 24 hours before responding, I know I would have approached the situation much differently and I would have actually been heard instead of discounted because of my immature response…a response quite similar to my 17 year-old self.”
Why does family do this to us?
I think the same thing happens in everyday life and relationships. The times when I can restrain myself, I either find the issue wasn’t even something worth debating or I can address it with far more grace. I’ve never had an experience where letting myself cool off didn’t eventually pay off.
Recently, I had similar conversations with two of my guy friends. When it comes to intense or uncomfortable topics, they are slow to speak or they say very little at all. One of them apologized to me for being a bad communicator; I could tell this was something he had been told before. I was (ironically) quick to tell him that wasn’t the case. While I did wish he would say more, when he did speak, his words were always well thought out and incredibly wise.
Quick, frequent, and reactionary speech is not a marker of wisdom.
On the other hand, being silent and passive isn’t always wise either. I know, for myself, there is wisdom in waiting instead of writing, speaking, or yelling when I am fired up or haven’t paused to think.
There was one moment over Christmas where I tried to put “slow to speak” into practice. My dad had said something that annoyed me. I didn’t say anything when he left the room because I knew I needed to wait and gather my thoughts.
Maturity 101, here we come!!
So, after exactly 3 minutes and 20 seconds, I decided I could communicate calmly and coherently. I found my father and about 3 minutes and 20 seconds later, I was acting like 17 year-old irrational and immature Joy again. I might have even slammed a door.
It was not wise—foolish even—and what I wanted to say was overshadowed by how I said it. In that moment, I knew I had lost any power to be heard.
I was a fool.
My New Year’s resolution could be to never do this again, but that probably won’t happen. However, my awareness is a step forward in knowing I need more than 3 minutes and 20 seconds if I want to increase my odds of being an effective communicator. In 2013, I will strive to be a little bit more like my friends who have been told they are “bad communicators”— to sit on my words before speaking and pray for wisdom in the pause.
And in that pause, I will hopefully realize that family isn’t what makes me respond irrationally, but rather my foolish, reactive 17 year-old self.
From my foolish heart,
p.s. Nuggets of wisdom for us fools…
1. Be angry and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds and be silent. –Psalm 4
2. A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds back. –Proverbs 29
3. Lighten up before you tighten up. –My improv teacher
4. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. –James 1
5. I pity da foo! –Mr. T
Love and Respect (Now) is a division of Love and Respect. Please be considerate.