I used to be an “exploder.” Know how I can prove it? My 19-year-old son remembers moments when I was like Mount St. Helens spewing its ugly, ashy mess. But ask my 14-year-old and he can’t recall the same episodes.
The problem is that I went from being an exploder to a stuffer. I started to internalize my anger and stress, which prevented many adult tantrums. But it did nothing to settle my nerves. And let’s face it, our children know when we are angry even when we are trying not to be. Body language says it all.
Hands gripping the steering wheel, talking through clenched teeth, veins popping…yep, all sure-tell signs that mamma ain’t happy. And we all know about that one…if she isn’t happy than no one is.
Whether it’s outward or internal anger, it isn’t good. It can create tension in relationships, health problems and an assortment of other unpleasant issues.
Today I’m not prone to exploding and rarely do I stuff things inside. I tend to be more honest about my feelings. This includes with God. You see, too often we mistakenly believe that when we speak to Him, it must be with eloquent, soft-spoken words.
But when I’m upset, I let Him know. I don’t sugarcoat it. And the reason I don’t is that after reading the Psalms I don’t know how many times, it’s pretty clear that He can deal with our honesty.
I’ve also learned something else. We can be honest with our children. Of course, this depends on their age and the specific issue at hand. So commonsense is important here.
What I find happens is that my children leave me space to deal with it. Or they offer a kind word, a pat on the back. They seem to appreciate it more when I can say things like, “Mom’s not in a very good mood right now.” Or “I’m not real happy about what just happened.”
I remember a time when I told my teenage daughter that she had disappointed me. Now I know to some they might think it’s harsh and that I could have used “kinder” words. But it was the truth and I wasn’t going to dance around it.
She’s a pretty hard nut to crack, not prone to show her feelings. And she will do everything in her power to not let you see her vulnerable. But when I said that, she broke. Tears flowed, with a true understanding of how her choices had affected me.
If I had gone another route, such as exploding in fury, it would have closed her down. She would have become just as angry and not fully understood the impact of her choices. If I said little and just kept it inside, I would likely have developed some resentment against her.
There is just something about being honest that is freeing. If you have struggled with exploding or stuffing, it might be time to try something new.
© 2012, Stephanie Romero