I wonder how many families with an incarcerated loved one manage this on their own. Dealing with all the chaos, stress, fear, frustration and relentlessness of the journey to and through incarceration is emotional...to the same degree that the Sun melts chocolate. Sometimes I have found myself being angry with and arguing with someone who was agreeing with me. I have interpreted silence in the mirror of my own fears and sense of defeat. I have been infinitely willing to argue.
And I have come to believe that much of this is driven by a reactive reflex. I remember well the first time this was suggested to me, that I was reacting rather than acting and I wept through the tears that I did not know what that meant. The counselor, whose name unfortunately is lost to time, said, “I know, but you are smart and you will get it.” And, by baby steps, I did learned what she meant.
For me that means to think before I acted. (Like my Dad had not been preaching that since my birth!) But as I looked dispassionately at the part I was playing in the chaos of my life, I started to understand that working harder on impulse control and considering the possible consequences of my actions might be in order. So I began to ask God for help in making changes in my life. And, guess what? God said, “I've only been waiting for you to ask.”
So very slowly I began to exercise choice in how I reacted to bad situations. I started to consider if my words, even if true, were likely to make the situation better. I began to act differently and, more exciting, to think differently when faced with the bumps in life.
Many years later I remember I was angry about the behavior of an acquaintance whose actions had been hurtful to a friend. A valued mentor said, “Can you cut her a little slack over this?” I immediately said, “Not yet.” But it started me thinking about how often I wanted someone to cut me a little slack, as in gently speaking to me directly about a concern rather than chatting about it to a third party, as in remembering I may have been more focused on my really, really challenging day rather than the needs of those around me, as in remembering that we all fail to be as kind or gentle or thoughtful or able as we “ought” at various times and for various reasons.
Hearing the call to let go of arguing truly changed my life in ways that are nothing less than transformational. (Which does not mean I’m not still refining my skills in this area!)
Proverbs 17:1 Better a dry crust with quiet than a house full of feasting with quarrels. (CEB)