My whole life, my tendency has been to over-analyze. It’s a compulsion, and not a healthy one. I mull over things that people say to me, and I usually forget the 1,000 good things they say and focus on the 3 bad things. It’s not a good way to be.
When people are angry, they say things they don’t mean. They generalize. They poke you where they know it will hurt because, well… they’re angry. I do the same thing. I tend to fixate on those things and convince myself that the sky is falling. They must not love me if they really think ________. You fill in the blank. I honestly used to believe that when people are angry they say what they REALLY mean. The older I get and the more often I say stupid stuff, the more I realize that anger and frustration generate their own reactions that are often unrelated to true feelings.
The problem is, people who REALLY love you don’t stop loving you just because you’re in an argument or tired or frustrated. They say things because, like it or not, nobody is perfect. The trick is to hear the grain of truth inside of the hurtful barb. Sometimes there is something behind the comment, sometimes there isn’t. Discerning it is the tough part.
When people get angry with me, my natural tendency is to shut down and go into survival mode. I rarely fight back. I just want it to stop. That’s not very helpful in resolving the issue, but it’s my knee-jerk reaction. That same negative tendency is what’s driving the focus on the negative.
I’m doing a better job these days of hearing the intent and the feelings rather than simply hearing the words. Most fights happen because someone (or both) got their feelings hurt. If you really love someone, it doesn’t matter if you MEANT to hurt their feelings, or even if you can comprehend why what you said or did hurt their feelings. If they’re hurt, you owe it to that loved one to listen, try to understand, and apologize.
“Incredipete, are you saying you should apologize even if you didn’t mean to hurt them?!?!” Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. You aren’t necessarily apologizing for what you said or did (because in some cases you didn’t do anything wrong). You’re apologizing for failing to be sensitive to the other person’s point of view, and for hurting their feelings. You’re an adult, you can apologize for the hurt even if you think you did nothing ELSE wrong.
I’m going to start keeping a journal (privately!) of the positive things people say and do. The kind words, the notes, the thoughtful gestures… Not to keep score, but so I can consciously focus on those things rather than defaulting to pessimism – a vicious cycle of anger and sadness. Love keeps no record of wrongs, but it can keep record of rights. 🙂 A long time ago someone told me that I should always confront in person and express positive emotions in writing. The idea behind that advice was basically never to put a negative into a format that the person will always be able to go back and look at. And let them go back whenever they want or need to and read the good stuff. Pretty good advice. Advice I never followed until the last few months.
If I’ve hurt your feelings and didn’t handle it right afterwards, I am truly sorry. You are entitled to your feelings. If I’ve said things to you out of anger or frustration that made you question how I felt about you, I’m sorry. Sometimes I speak before I think, and sometimes I get mad and lash out. No excuses…
Most of us, if we’re honest, have more good in our lives than bad. More good in our relationships than bad. More blessings in our lives than unfortunate circumstances. More love in our lives than hate.
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” The apostle Paul had it right.