Letters to Everett: Habits worth having

Of the many healthy habits I hope we send you out into the world having mastered, this one easily rises to the top (just after “Trust Jesus always”):

“Solve the upset, and don’t let it spoil the day.”

I’m talking about the personal choice we all have in the moments after a snafu, misunderstanding, miscommunication, argument, or any downright rotten thing occurs that gets us all “oh no they didn’t!” This is the kind of frustration that gobsmacks us and threatens to sour the otherwise happy and healthy vibes of the here and now.

Make no mistake about it. We do have a choice in all of those moments. We can choose to fly off the handle (PSA – it doesn’t change the fact that it’s flying off the handle just because we call it “venting”), to let unbecoming language fly out of our mouths, and to generally perpetuate the frustration onto others just because we’re feeling mad/sad/insulted/hurt/disrespected. 

Let me be very clear here. Nothing that another person does to you (real or perceived) makes it OK to go dump on other people. That’s foolhardy rationalization at its finest, and it’s harmful.

Here is what I need you to fully grasp and embrace for yourself. Understand that the come down moments after something difficult and intense happens are crucial. It’s what you do in those minutes that matters a great deal. 

Here’s the good news. Things that can drive us crazy, that trigger our pet peeves, or that just downright hack us off can be counted upon to happen pretty much all the time. That’s life, kiddo. So make good use of it! Use the times when things go sideways to practice, and to add healthy coping tools to your toolkit.

Yes, you could freeze the person/people out, which makes you feel better for all of about two nanoseconds. It really stings when a freeze out turns into days into weeks into months into years, and your heart will twist a little each time you have good news you want to share with them, but you can’t because the (likely trivial) thing you got so spun up about has become this Giant Glacial Thing and nobody’s happy with it, yet nobody’s willing to thaw either.

You could also dig your heels in and spew out all the cortisol-charged, fight-flight-freeze thoughts that are sure to do quite a whammy not only on you, but on everyone who hears them. You know the saying “No one knows how to hurt you like family”? Yeah – it’s true, and it’s devastating stuff. Don’t go for the jugular, ever. Especially when you know where somebody’s scar tissue is – that’s just ugly mean and it’s completely ineffective. 

The one thing I can guarantee they won’t hear from your vitriol, however justly felt or clearly articulated? What you’re actually trying to express to them. 

Because instead of you saying it with an intent to understand and heal, you’re placing your own personal comfort (in the form of emotionally charged jabs) before the love we are called to feel for (and show) others. That is a tragic lose-lose. Ask me how I know.

Instead, my dear child, do the unpleasant, hard but ultimately worth it work of figuring out what got you into that difficult moment in the first place. No matter what anybody else does, resist the all too human temptation to engage in finger-pointing, justifying (ex: “I only did that because you did this!”), and just generally stewing in your own self-righteousness. 

Treat that moment like Jesus were right there in the room with you. Talk to that person like they are one of His children (because they are).

And when everyone has gotten back to a place of calm, don’t punish people further by walking around all Pouty McPouterson. Or by being short. Or passive-aggressive. Or any of the other dumb things people do when their egos are bruised and they want to really show the other person just how badly they misbehaved (spoiler alert – you going around acting like a stick in the mud doesn’t really affect anyone all that much, except you).

What I’m about to say may sound strange, because it’s not aligned with our accomplishment/achievement-obsessed culture, but one of the proudest moments I feel as a part of our family is when somebody, or all of us, have had our feathers ruffled, and then we work it out and get the mood, the moment and the memory (mundane or otherwise) back on track. That’s a loving legacy to pass onto any future Walden generations, and I’m so happy we can practice it together.

I love you!



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