Curbing my emotional impulsiveness is something I've been struggling with most of my life. It has nothing to do with the pumping iron kind of “weight” training.
As a woman, I tend to more easily and quickly vent my feelings. In the latter season of my life my problem seems to accelerate. Somehow I must be assuming that my matriarchal status gives me a right to be outspoken. I admit to times when I want to complain to someone about what he or she did that didn’t please me or neglected to do something as promised. I could whitewash it and call it “righteous indignation.” Nevertheless it's still a negative character trait.
Since I tend to think I'm right, I’d like to make it known. But by nature I’m not really a confrontational person, especially not face to face. As a writer, I’d much rather send off a letter. That gives me a chance to craft my complaint, state my case logically and carefully point by point. Snail mail is far too slow these days. With the ease of e-mail, which is instant and allows me to vent while I'm hot under the collar, my unfortunate habit escalates.
Oh, the trouble I’ve gotten into and the embarrassment I’ve suffered time and again by impulsively sending off a missive which in the end turns out to be a deadly missile when it reaches its destination! The dictionary tells me that a missile is “an object or weapon that is thrown, shot, or otherwise propelled to a target.” A letter I quickly send off in the heat of my emotions, especially with a backdrop of perception before I have all the facts, can be more lethal than a hand grenade. It has the potential to mortally wound a friendship or relationship. It is not a “guided missile” unless I had waited patiently to be guided by the Lord before I sent it.
God has had me in WAIT training most of my life in respect to my impulsive habit of venting-and-sending written words too soon or speaking words prematurely. The latter are even more damaging since they were spontaneous and I can't retract them. In Proverbs we read, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” And “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken [by inference, written] in right circumstances.” In the book of James the writer warns, “The tongue is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men…from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing.”
I'm not advocating holding in my emotions; totally suppressing them has pressure cooker dangers. In the Psalms, David gave us a preemptive example to follow: “I will pour out my complaint before God; I declare my trouble before Him.” Ah, now we’re getting to the heart of the matter. VENT is a good four letter word, but WAIT is its healthy counterpart.
Through long years of experience in making mistakes in this area of speaking or writing something hastily or rashly, I’ve found what works for me. However, sometimes I still come dangerously close to transgressing again. Recently an occasion arose when I was really miffed. I felt that I had every right to complain to someone about an unfair situation that involved my feelings. I sat down at my sometimes overly user-friendly computer, and set about venting my feelings through my fingers with the full intent of sending off the e-mail immediately to the person involved. I rapidly wrote two steamy pages. I spell-checked, outlined my points, underlined, cap lettered for emphasis, and edited it several times until I was satisfied I had spoken my piece eloquently and presented my case flawlessly. Let the chips fall where they may—the person deserved every sentence.
I sat back and blew out my breath—Well, here it goes! But somehow I was held back from clicking SEND. An unseen but clearly felt hand seemed to restrain me. Perhaps it was my Guardian Angel. (He is probably exhausted and frustrated with his incredibly long and arduous life assignment of bringing me to my senses.)
“WAIT!” There was no mistaking the impression.
“Be patient. Click SAVE instead.” Okay, I guess I could send it later.
“That’s not all—pray for him. And pour out your complaint before God.”
Reluctantly I obeyed. I waited one day, two days. The emotional fire in my furnace cooled.
On the third day my target person surprised me by e-mailing me all on his own. With caring and warmth he laid out an entirely different scenario for the situation between us that had precipitated my boiler eruption. I had misunderstood, jumped to conclusions, and read between the lines when there was nothing there to read! Because of my wrong perception, I came close to losing a relationship that was precious and holy!
Venting is necessary to relieve my emotional pressure—holding in my feelings isn't healthy. Writing down my feelings is a good outlet, an escape valve—as long as I don’t send the missive immediately. Complaining is permitted—if I do it before God. Waiting awhile is always wise.
O Lord, don’t give up on me—keep me in your WAIT Training class for as long as I need it. And reward my Guardian Angel with an extra slice of Angel Food cake for his coffee break at “Celestial STARbucks” for restraining me from something more serious than egg on my face.