While visiting the amazing country of Tanzania earlier this year I noticed some very distinct differences in the attitude the people had while going about their daily life. These are people with very little creature comforts, they have what they need and they are very grateful for that. I watched closely as they praised God for letting them meet us, they praise him for the meal on their plate, they praised him for the health of their family. As the days went on we noticed that things don’t always go the way you want in Africa. The 3 atm’s in the area may not work, the road ahead may be filled with elephants and you can’t get home after a very long day, until they decide to move. The people didn’t gripe and whinge, they laughed, “T.I.A” they would say which means “This Is Africa!” And everyone breaks into laughter when they here this.
The people also showed me how considerate they are towards each other. One guy who served us at one of the lodges told us he had saved enough from tips and planned to buy his daughter a new bike, but his neighbour had had a tough year. So he put off buying his daughter the bike because he didn’t want to rub his good fortune in his neighbours face. He told us it wouldn’t make him happy to know his happiness may cause his neighbour to be unhappy. It touched me deeply, and I wondered when we came to think our plan is what makes us happy?
When I got home to western society I saw how irritable and lacking in tolerance and gratitude we are as a culture and it saddened me deeply. We have more than we can ever need, and yet we are wasteful and we take the simple things in life for granted. Many of us get extremely angry over the small stuff, it’s as if we planned our whole day to perfection, expecting things to go exactly that way, and surely enough as the day goes on things go wrong, someone may cut us off in traffic, the kids spill their milk in the car, there is a long line at the checkout, someone finished an ingredient we needed for dinner, and we hadn’t planned for any of this. So by the end of the day we are miserable and wrung out, reactive and aggressive, not grateful, not peaceful.
I caught myself mid-flight as I overreacted to an annoyance and I stopped myself, I couldn’t believe how badly I handled a small trivial hiccup in my day. I caught myself again when my daughter showed me a broken usb filled with pictures from our trip, the horror in my voice at the sight of the usb was a complete shock to my daughter and myself. It wasn’t holding the only copy of the photos, we can afford to buy another one, we have a car to go get another one if we want. What a silly thing to get horrified over! I had an epiphany.
If we stopped spending so much time planning our day to precision and we factored in the things that are sure to go wrong, just like they do in Africa, “T.I.A”, then maybe we wouldn’t be so uptight. We would be able to cope when we face inconveniences, when the unexpected grates on our tolerance. If we watch ourselves closely we may recognise when we are trying so hard to control the people and the situations around us in order to try and prevent our anger. Then we can make a decision, to aim all that control towards our anger so that the people and the life around us don’t have to be perfect, and so we can be grateful for the fact that all our needs are met.
Precious metals are refined in the furnace, and yet we spend so much time being angry at the heat that is actually meant to help us improve. Isn’t it time we paid attention and changed the direction of what we try to control?
Lord help us change the aim of our control, and keep this as our goal. Amen!
There is no denying it, strong emotions easily influence our decisions, and not usually in a good way.
We’ve all experienced overwhelming emotions in varying degrees in our lives. Times when clarity evades us under a dark cloud of confusing heartache, desperation, anguish, guilt, fear….
Even enjoyable emotions can negatively influence our decisions, especially in relationships. We feel so strongly, emotionally excited, that we let our pursuit of those feelings misguide our ability to be logical and rational regarding the pace we let the relationship develop and how deeply or quickly we invest our trust. Not just in romantic relationships but friendships as well. Our desire to be loved and accepted can smother the logic that recognizes a red flag and should deter us from believing flattery and false promises.
Negative emotions can cause us to make rash reactive decisions, without evaluating at the time, we may not like the long term consequences. We have all made a decision in the heat of the moment only to realize we would have done things differently had we had control of the emotions effecting us at the time.
I suffer from a few psychological issues, mainly anxiety and a manic/depressive mood disorder. Unstable emotions play a huge role in my daily life. I am extremely guilty of letting emotions control my decisions in the past, and truth be told, they still haunt me sometimes.
So what has changed? …. Lots!
We may not be able to stop our emotions, but we can prevent them from poisoning our choices. Oh and don’t be confused here: Reactions are not choices. However, using our emotions to excuse our reactions is a choice.
Through many years of therapy and self-awareness I have learned not to trust my emotions. I have learned to accept them as a reactive response but I know if I act too quickly while experiencing the emotion I will regret it later. So I had to set myself some rules.
It is important to develop your own set of rules, by looking back over your life and seeing the patterns. If you know you always find yourself in the same predicaments over and over, seek a Councillor/Psychologist to help you establish some rules that are healthy for you and the decisions you want to make in future.
Look carefully at the people you spend time with. Are they empowering your emotions and encouraging impulsive choices? Or do they display self-control and rational choices? We are all influenced by the people we associate with on a regular basis, but the beauty is we get to choose not to spend time with those who negatively impact us.
A stable confidant is vital to this transition, to detoxing our decision making.
When dealing with volatile situations and strong emotions, get some distance from the immediate situation and speak to someone who you know has a calm, unemotional sense of reason before doing anything else.
Remember: A little prayer goes a long way. If you resonate with this post but doubt your ability to overcome your overpowering emotions, ask your Heavenly Father for some help, read His Word. Through Christ’s strength ALL things are possible!
Through these few weeks of suffering the condition I mentioned in a recent post, I have been more focused than ever on bringing more of God’s presence into my day-to-day life. Funny that!
We always stretch further for Him when we are suffering, don’t we?
Last week I completed a 2 week fast. No alcohol, No TV, and did not touch a blog site or any social media. My intention was to meditate, and work on my novel, as much as possible (although my plans are not always His and He had other things for me to deal with).
The foundation of a successful fast, is giving up anything that seeks to control us, anything we enjoy enough to get lost in, or find a pull towards during tough times. Easy distractions or addictions, habits and weaknesses. During a fast we make a 100% non-negotiable promise, to God, to go without which ever thing we are fasting for an achievable amount of time.
Each time the tempting thought arises we acknowledge God and our promise to Him, we reinforce that promise and we ask for His help when it gets tough. By doing this we are making some huge expressions of faith from our softened hearts. (God just loves it when we do this!)
These are some things that speak out of our hearts during a fast like this – God is real, He watches us, We revere Him enough to want to keep our promise. We need his help when we are weak. We are willing to give up the pleasures of the world to acknowledge Him and invite Him in to our situation.
It is the most powerful exercise I have found to overcome the world and my flesh, and witness His presence.
The first thing I noticed during this particular fast, was how much spare time I had to get other things done. I accomplished so much, and after feeling useless for a number of weeks, I felt a great sense of achievement as I ticked off many things on my never ending to-do list.
The second thing I noticed was how much easier it was to discover God’s guidance and to find things to praise Him for. The medication I am on for this condition has exacerbated my mood disorder significantly, I am more emotionally sensitive than ever. It can only take a millisecond for me to burst into tears, or flick on the rage switch, grit my teeth and loose any place of calm. Often, in times like this, I pray. Usually something desperate like “Oh Lord help me, take away my emotions, help so-and-so see how hard this is for me and not aggravate me! I don’t want to feel like this” etc. Then I wait…with angry tears….until He changes things.
However, during this fast I found praising Him was a much quicker way to flick off that unpleasant switch.
I recommend everyone tries this, it is not always easy, but it works every time!
Right in the midst of a full blown attack, when our Inner Enemies are hitting us from every angle, rather than fighting back in anger, we can end the battle then and there. By pushing aside that tidal wave of ammunition, which fuels unpleasant emotions, just for a second, and find something, anything to be grateful for. Praise God for that, whatever it may be. It could be as simple as the ability to breathe, or the warm bed you are about to snuggle up in… It could be the legs that allow you to walk away from something aggravating. 😉
If there is anything that will send our Inner Enemies high-tailing it into the distance, it is Praise! Worship! Gratitude! Forgiveness! A sure way to grab onto the face of God and turn it towards you!
One thing I despise about being a woman is when I have let my emotions take my mouth too far. You know, when you have crossed that line from reason, to some form of alien invasion, frightening your loved one half to death by who you have become, for reasons he cannot fathom for the life of him. It feels like while I’m running off at the mouth I get this ‘slow-motion’ realisation in the back of my mind that I am going to regret this pretty soon, but because it comes in slow motion, it sometimes hits me too late. Both my mouth and my thought are headed to finish around the same time, only my mouth always manages to cross the line first! How frustrating!
Then I have two choices, I can sit on what I have said, letting the emotions hover around in my head, continuing to reason back and forth, in an unreasonable way, waiting for him to apologise for whatever he did or didn’t do that set me off. I could stay in my anger, justifying it to myself and causing tension to hang in the air, which might stubbornly last for days! Deep down I’d be hoping the poor man on the receiving end of my tirade, can see through my raging words into the hurt or fear (or PMS) that is causing them, and try to hear enough of my words to know that I really just need a cuddle and to be told everything will be alright (which, after a slaughtering, can be pretty hard for a guy to get to).
Or I can back-pedal as soon as I hear that thought creep up to meet my mouth. Repenting immediately, asking God to change my mood, then I can swallow my pride and apologise. I can become ‘happy’ in that moment after my remorse has rectified the mood. I have to remember that we women have the fabulous gift of being able to change our minds and I must decide to.
The conversation inside my head would be interesting to watch if it were an animated cartoon, a little inner angel and a little inner enemy going toe-to-toe, battling for the win. Regrettably, in my youth I know which one was usually more victorious. Thankfully finding humility and submission to God has empowered my little inner angel and it is not so little anymore. I love how, more often than not, God can simply help me change my mind and my mood. I just have to be willing to let Him.
This works in so many areas, if I don’t feel like cooking dinner, I can think of something special that will make my family smile and it changes my attitude about cooking for them. I can have my heart set on a night out and when plans change I could either pace the house in a bad mood searching for something to make up for it, or simply find comfort in a quiet night at home with my loved ones. I may not feel like meeting the advances from my man, yet if I try to change my mind, even for a second, I find the reasons against have disappeared.
I was talking with my Sister recently about how women seem to have the role of making changes in their relationships. Sometimes it seems unfair to hear about women who want their men to work on the relationship more, to attend counseling, or couple groups, or mostly simply just to talk about the relationship more. Some men rarely feel the urge to change anything, they find a way to be at peace with the situation, or if it gets beyond a joke they may eventually give up entirely.
Mostly I am grateful that good men are very tolerant of our ‘alien’ mood swings, I notice they rarely hold grudges, even if it may appear so, as they often stay quiet to ride out the storm. We need to show them that it is safe to interact with us again, by softening our mood, letting go of our anger and repenting for any possible harm our words may have caused them.
God in His wisdom designed us women the luxury of being able to change our minds easily, sometimes it can take a while, but sometimes it can be instantaneous. That is why it falls on us to make most of the changes in our relationships, have a happier spirit, and be more patient, attentive, supportive, aiming to meet the needs of our men, as God designed us to.
Eve was created to be Adam’s helper, she was meant to nurture, support, encourage and assist him, not take over, ear-bash and belittle him. We need to remember this when deciding which changes could be made to our relationships, or perhaps quite simply, our mind.