This morning (like all mornings) I was brushing my teeth with my daughter, Katie. Katie and I tend to get on each other’s nerves in the mornings. Maybe it is the fact that we are trying to get ready so quickly to make it to school on time, or maybe it is the fact that she just knows how to push my buttons (and probably vice versa too)! Anyway, I was brushing and Katie was talking. I cannot even remember exactly what she said, but I do remember that bubbly feeling coming up from the pit of my stomach. You know that one where you can feel the explosion of anger before it even appears out of your mouth? That is where I was. Anger and frustration were about to develop in a very bad way. The thing was I was stuck brushing my teeth with my electric toothbrush. If I took it out to speak, then toothpaste would splatter all over making a huge mess that I would have to clean up. If I stopped it, then the toothpaste would still be in my mouth and I would have to start all over again. In the end, I opted to wait out my response to her and keep the brush in my mouth. Good choice. By the time I finished (a whole minute later), I had calmed down from Katie’s words. In fact, I couldn’t even remember what she said. She too, seemed to have calmed down. Hmmm. Maybe I need to wait before I respond to her in the morning. Maybe that toothbrush in my mouth is proving to me that I speak too soon when responding to Katie (and others too).
This doesn’t just happen with Katie. It occurs with lots of people in my life: my friends, my husband, my family. I do it with all of them. I respond so I can check it off my list of things accomplished. If they respond back then I take that as a direct insult because that item goes back on my list as unfinished. The problem is I don’t think through my response, I just respond on instinct. Sometimes that works out fine, but other times it is disastrous. I am impulsive, quick to anger and judgmental in most of my retorts.
Job 33:33 …listen to me; Keep silent, and I will teach you wisdom
Unfortunately, because I never keep silent and listen, I never really speak with wisdom (at least during these quick conversations with Katie). It is almost like I am plugging my ears like a child and saying to God, “I am not listening!!!! I know way better than you do!!! I know that Katie and I fight every day, but You (God) just don’t understand what it is like here in this house!” He certainly proved to me today that He knows better and He can put a stop to my child-like behavior – with a toothbrush.
So recently, I was sending an email for a volunteer assignment that I needed filled. I sent it out to over 100 families and received quite a few responses. Some people were excited to volunteer, while others were not exactly happy that I emailed them. It wasn’t a requirement that they volunteer, but some of them took it as one. The replies were not all friendly and nice. In fact, some were a little curt and mean. I realized that if I responded in my usual quick way, I might not be so kind. Remember my blog yesterday on the “blower uppers?” I decided to take this approach. So I waited before responding because I didn’t want to expose any blower-uppers that might be lurking out there in the email world (and honestly I was really busy yesterday so I couldn’t respond quickly). In the end, I responded with kindness (at least I hope I did).
Letting things sit sometimes gives us a little prospective on other’s point of view. It helps me realize that sometimes our words (written or spoken) don’t come out exactly the way we hope. When I am quick to judge, I don’t allow the words time to be absorbed into my brain. When I don’t give the words time to soak in, I jump to conclusions that usually are wrong. I almost feel like there are two sides in my brain that have direct connections to my mouth – one side is judgmental and tends to quickly spew out my anger through my mouth and the other is a slow, prayerful and empathetic response . Whichever side the words fall into is the way my mouth spews the words back out. The prayerful side seems to have a really long filter, while the judgmental side seems to have no filter at all. I need to somehow connect that judgmental side to my prayerful, empathetic side.
Unfortunately for me, my normal response is quick and judgmental, so it takes work for me to be prayerful and empathetic. I am pretty sure with God’s help I can create a filter even for the judgmental side. For some reason this seems to be the hardest when I am dealing with my family. Through the words in the book of Job, I can see that God will give me wisdom. I just need to be silent and listen. Thankfully, today I realized that with the toothbrush scenario (it was God’s way of obstructing my mouth). Just one little, ordinary, everyday experience caused me to think about my quick response. As I did, I smiled a little because God taught me an awesome lesson just through brushing my teeth. Who’d a thought?