Making Better Choices

In the heat of anger, how to step back and get a better perspective on the situation

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Posted in , Oct 31, 2017

Couple arguing

My husband did something jaw-droppingly thoughtless last week, and I’ve been intensely irritated with him ever since. I’ve tried all the usual paths to forgiveness and peace of mind, without the tiniest bit of success. This morning I prayed, in a rather annoyed tone, “Lord, I honestly don’t know what to do. No matter what I try, I’m still feeling angry and hurt. And I’m running out of tongue-biting capability.”

A word came to mind: temptation. I rolled it around in my thoughts.

What if, instead of thinking about how to rein in my feelings, I looked at my distress as a type of turmoil deliberately stirred up within me? 

It was astonishing how different this made the situation look. When I viewed my inner turmoil as something happening to me instead of something within me, I could take a teeny tiny step backwards and see the anger that had plagued me for days from a different perspective. Just that little bit of distance took the venom out of my emotions. The hot intensity of anger decreased. I was still mad, of course, but it was a normal mad, a manageable one. 

In cartoons, there’s a little angel hovering near one ear and a little devil by the other, taking turns whispering their recommendations. In real life, we sometimes experience a cacophony of feelings and thoughts and impulses, with everything all shouting at once. That noise alone can confuse us and lead us down the wrong path. But if we look at the chaos itself as a distraction, a temptation, or something imposed on us, it’s possible to detach from it a bit… and that allows us to make better choices. 

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