Yesterday, I overhead one of my kids lying and manipulating someone just to get what they wanted. I had one of my kids talk rudely to me in front of their friends at school. I had another tell me all the reasons why they can't do the right thing in a situation where they know the right thing to do.
And I talked (yelled) at one of my kids in a way that still has me reeling from it even this morning.
Seriously, who is that woman and why does she yell like that?
They're not to blame for my yelling though.
That's on me.
They don't cause me to yell - that 'yeller' is already inside of me, just waiting for an opportunity to come out. And that makes it a 'me' problem, not a 'them' problem.
I can't count the number of times I've prayed that God would change my heart so I never yelled again.
I can't count the number of times I've locked myself in the bathroom and turned on the fan (so I couldn't hear my kids) in order to prevent myself from yelling.
I can't count the number of times I've gone to my husband, asking him to handle a situation so I didn't start yelling.
I can't count the number of times I've sought council from wise women about what they do to prevent themselves from yelling.
I can't count the number of times I've laid in bed at night crying because of my yelling.
I can't count the number of times I've been thankful for the morning, feeling like it was a new beginning that hadn't yet been soiled by my yelling.
Sometimes, weeks go by and I don't yell.
Other times, I feel like I'm walking in a mine field, and any misstep is going to cause me to explode.
I don't really blow on account of mistakes because I make plenty of mistakes myself. And I don't typically blow on account of kids acting like kids because I can handle kids.
I blow it when there are lies though. I blow when there is disrespect. And I blow when it's the exact same problem day after day after day without any visible attempt to change or to do the right thing.
I don't write this proudly.
I do write it in fear of judgment though.
I've been around people who no longer have kids in the house and forget just how hard it is. In fact, I'm one of those people. I was just talking to Ross (my oldest, who is 23) the other day and said, "You never did the things these kids are doing!" to which he replied, "Oh mom, you romanticize everything! I did all of those things you've mentioned. You just forget."
And I've been around people who are patient and soft-spoken by nature, so yelling isn't something they've ever had to battle. I've never been patient or soft-spoken though, and I come from a long line of yellers (yellers I love), which makes it a hard, ongoing battle for me.
It's just so dang easy to judge a struggle you've never struggled with.
I'm quick to apologize though.
I'm also quick to point out my flaws and the fact that I hope my kids will remember my good attributes enough to adopt them in their own lives, and my bad attributes enough to steer clear of them.
And I'm quick to forgive.
If you ask any of my kids to list their favorite things about me, 'quick to forgive' will always make the list.
Do something wrong, but then come to me, apologize with sincerity and hug me, and it's as if nothing ever happened in my book.
I was talking to Josh on the phone yesterday about a struggle I was having with one of the kids, and he said, "Maybe that's why our kids keep doing what they're doing - because they know you'll always forgive them and act as if nothing even happened. Maybe you need to not forgive them so quickly in this situation so they can see what it's like in the real world where there isn't so much forgiveness."
He called back a few hours later to recant on that advice though and said, "It our job to love and forgive them the way Jesus does, not the way the world does."
And I believe that's the truth.
I also believe that the more I focus on myself and how I'm feeling (how frustrated I am with their grades, how much they've hurt my feelings, how little they seem to notice the non-stop hours I put in as a mom, how sad I am about their choices, how mad I am about the perpetual mess, how exhausted I am from keeping it all going, etc.) the more I yell.
Anytime I take my focus off of myself though, I start to feel the yoke of my yelling begin to lighten.
One of the problems is that by our very nature, we think constantly of ourselves. (Seriously, try NOT to think about yourself for a day and you'll agree.)
And society only fuels that problem with non-stop talk of SELF-worth, SELF-love, SELF-truth, SELF-knowledge, SELF-esteem, SELF-ies, etc.
I think all that talk of 'self' just leads us to be SELF-absorbed, SELF-centered, and SELF-ish.
All the research says that the problem most of us suffer from is low SELF-esteem, but whether we have high SELF-esteem or low SELF-esteem, they both stem from the exact same problem of thinking about ourSELF too much.
At least that's the problem in my house...everyone (including me) tends to think about themSELF more than they think about anyone else.
The other problem though is that that only way to quit thinking of ourSELF is to set our sights on something better than ourSELF (Jesus, love, grace, joy, giving-back, forgiveness, the generational impact of our families, the community impact of our generosity, etc.).
When I look at it in that light, it seems so clear that mySELF sucks.
MySELF sucks the life, the joy, and the meaning right out of me. It sucks my emotions dry. It sucks my energy dry. It sucks my potential dry. And it sucks all of my relationships dry as well.
So I have to quit allowing mySELF to suck those things dry, and have to start refilling them with something better...
Down with self, up with grace.
Down with self, up with joy.
Down with self, up with forgiveness.
Down with self, up with love.
Down with self, up with living.