My brother and I didn't always get along well. He knew which buttons to push that would send me over the edge, and it wasn't pretty. One time I lost it, and threw a table knife at him. It went whizzing right by him and stuck into the wall behind him. Yeah, I could have taken his eye out, or given him a really cool scar with a not so cool story about how his older sister got really angry and threw a knife at him. I was glad I missed… Once I calmed down.
I remember my dad talking to me about controlling my feelings and choosing not to let others push my buttons. He had a temper too--surprise, surprise--and like me he had to learn how to not let it get the better of him. He told me something that stuck with me, "Just let it roll off you, like water rolls off a duck." A variation on the adage of growing a thicker skin.
I remember thinking this a lot during some training I went through a couple of years ago. You know the song, “I’m like a bird, I’ll only fly away…” Instead I was singing in my head, “I’m like a duck, it rolls right off my back…” over and over again through some of the toughest moments, and it worked. Sometimes this technique doesn't work so well, because some things are truly hurtful.
I have learned that I have a choice to react without any thought or to thoughtfully act. Basically, I can employ my brain and make a choice about how I’m going to feel about people’s action, and then what I’m going to do about it. Sometimes action is required, and other times it’s best to just let it roll right off your back.
Over the years, I have hurt other people's feelings, and had my own feelings hurt. We can be so very thoughtless at times. Often we are completely unaware that what we've done or said is hurtful. Sometimes a clear choice is made to be absolutely mean in words and actions.
My reactions, in both cases, aren't always the greatest. Yes, I do get mad, and hurt. But for the most part I've learned to pause, take a breath and think about what I will do. I usually start by asking myself this question, "How would I like to be treated in this situation?" And the answer usually is, "Nicely, and with love." This has helped me get past my own hurt and angry feelings, and respond in a way that I hope is open, humble, and loving, even when I am standing up for myself against someone who is persistently thoughtless and mean towards me.
I also remind myself that we are all works in progress, and not one of us is finished yet. We are all scared at one point or another, and fear can move us to do some pretty mean things, when what we really need is a heavy dose of love. Coming from a place of love is so much more effective and liberating.
There are times in my life when I really have to work hard on this. These are periods of of being vulnerable, learning, and growth, and I can only hope that I’m getting better. It’s been hard to sit down and talk things out, especially when someone doesn’t want to talk it through to help me understand how I hurt them, or figure out a way to make things better.
It takes a lot of courage to talk to someone who hurt you about what how you feel. The times I was able to talk things through, fully communicating the hurts and hopes for the relationship, were scary, but served to bring us closer together. These moments are powerful real-life examples to me of how remaining open to conversation, even when I’m afraid of being hurt, hurting someone further, or struggling to find the right words, can truly make a difference.