I have spent the last few weeks experiencing different people’s resilience levels, as I have journeyed with them both at work and in personal circles. If we are getting angry often, or allowing small things to frustrate us, out of proportion to their importance, there might be something here for us to chat about.
I remember once standing on exactly the same piece of ground, near a river in the mountains, in both winter and summer. In winter it was hard, hard, hard; dry and compact. In summer I arrived to spend a weekend there, and the mountain rain fell constantly. Sunday morning there was no change, the ground wet but still hard. By Sunday afternoon there was suddenly a marshland, water being squeezed out around my boots as I moved. In less than an hour, the ground had succumbed to the rising water table and given up any pretense of being solid…
We are like this, I find. Inside us all, are all the hurts and disappointments that we have accumulated over many years. Most of us are still working through the pain, or the hurt, and have not fully forgiven yet. We are getting there, but usually slower than the new inconveniences the daily grind is bringing us. This is our emotional water-table, beneath our surface.
Covering over these things is a reserve of grace, or resilience, where we can absorb the impact of lives inconveniences and people’s imperfections. Like the layer of strong earth by the river, it is covering over the emotional water-table. Slowly, all these inconveniences and impacts accumulate, though, and the emotional water-table begins to rise. On the outside, nothing changes, but inside we are less and less able to absorb the inconveniences of life graciously.
Then one day, one hour, one minute, there is all of a sudden no capacity left. We are saturated, and the inconveniences of life have left us no room to absorb any more. Our family and friends look on astonished, as something so simple as a hard-to-find car key, leaves us screaming in frustration… the emotional water-table has broken the surface and in an instant, we have gone from strong, solid and calm, to volatile and frustrated.
People place trust in our ability to absorb life’s inconveniences. All of us have these things to deal with. Unquestionably, each of us has a backstory that affects just how deep our water-table is. But we owe those around us predictability and stability. This is the stuff trust is made of.
A good friend of mine once said “Anger and violence are the last refuge of the powerless” He said that 13 years ago, I have never forgotten it. These are the recourse of someone who has no other way of dealing with their emotional bankruptcy.
Can we bleed off the frustration before it breaks the surface? Can we become powerful again? Able to choose? Master of our own responses? I think we can. Here are some ideas:
- Work the ground; prepare your “soil”
- See the world and people, rightly. Don’t assume too much, or too little. One goes beyond innocence to victimhood, and the other beyond caution to cynicism. Neither are wise.
- Accept that the world is not fair, and that everything does not balance out.
- The world does not do things “to” us. “It” has no purpose, no devious intent. Mostly, things simply happen, and we are there, caught in the waterfall of circumstance
- Remember the big picture – this too shall pass!
- Create emotional drainage.
- We can choose our attitude and our response to every situation! The more often we choose right, the less impact a situation will have.
- Learn to adapt our problem solving skills to each situation. One size does NOT fit all!
- Forgive quickly and often. Don’t keep score.
- Choose not to escalate issues. Choose to de-escalate.
- Understand our neighbour’s soil too. We all have a context!
- You may need additional “drainage” to cope with their run-off!
- Remember the backstory that you don’t know. Believe that it exists and give grace as you would to yourself.
- Where there is malicious intent, be discerning. Don’t be drawn into that world, into that quid pro quo.
- Don’t let their emotional bankruptcy take you down. Look and see where they are at and be the emotional counterbalance. But not the finger-pointer…
Peacekeepers are a dime a dozen. What the world needs are peaceMAKERS. Peace makers can make peace out of war, peace out of conflict! Lets make peace within ourselves so we can give it to others generously.