Sunday, June 28, 2009

Doing Your Part

It is not unusual to have an individual or a couple in my office who talks about a difficult situation with another person. Very often the client is angry and frustrated with another person's behavior. Sometimes the client is frustrated because he or she can't seem to get along with a difficult person.

The Bible tells us, in Psalm 133:1, "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" I think we would all agree that unity is both good and pleasant. It is wonderful when people are in harmony as they work and live side by side. Hebrews 12:14 tells us "Make every effort to live at peace with all men and to be holy."

One of the things I often remind people of is this: You are only responsible for yourself. Sometimes when we feel very angry or frustrated, we begin to do or say things that only add fuel to the fire and we make things worse. Later we regret what we said or we are not proud of the the choices we made in terms of our behavior.

The verse in Hebrews only tells us to "make every effort" to live at peace. It doesn't say that we always will live at peace. The message here is that we are to do our part. How? By remembering that although we can't control another person's behavior, we can always control our own. Here are some things to keep in mind:

1) When you are extremely angry, take a time out to cool off. Any conversation that you have when you are very angry will probably not be very productive. The reason for that is that you are in "fight or flight" mode, and you are probably not going to behave out of your "mature self" but rather out of your "angry child" self. That is rarely a good thing.

2) If anger is a problem for you on a regular basis, you may want to work on some anger management techniques or get to the bottom of why you are so angry. Out of control anger hurts people, and damages relationships as well.

3) Keep in mind that no one can "make" you do anything. They can't make you be violent or yell or call them names or anything else. You can choose to behave in an appropriate way even when you are frustrated. If you feel you cannot choose healthy behavior, then it is time to breathe and take a time out.

Waiting for the other person to change before changing how you deal with conflict only prolongs the problem and postpones the possibility of living in harmony with that person. Be the hero. Choose to "do the right thing" in conflict, even when the other one does not. At the end of the day, you'll feel good about behaving in a healthy way.