The great majority of fights we’re fired up for just aren’t worth fighting. Recently I tried to get into an argument with a relative that was harshly criticizing my wife. She appreciated that I wanted to protect her, but she didn’t really need it. In fact she seemed amused at my efforts, and when I asked her later why, she said, "It was like watching you wrestle a pig. You both got dirty, and the pig loved it." So here’s ten steps for staying out of the mud when someone has hurt you deeply, or a nasty argument starts.
Stop talking. You don’t need to get into a mud-flinging contest.Stop listening. Close your eyes to signal this, and take a deep breath to slow down.Stop thinking, of what to say next, of how to get even, of how you look to others.Walk away or turn away. Start taking a little time-out.Rise above the situation. Pray you can see your enemy, yourself and your situation as God does, for example, as two siblings fighting and breaking a piece of their father’s or mother’s heart.
Realize that life isn’t fair, and be thankful it isn’t. Maybe life has been a lot harder on the person who’s putting you down than it has been for you. If you’d spent your life in her shoes, who knows that you might not be meaner than she in this situation. And who knows what she’s been through today, stuff that isn’t fair to her?
Remember some of the mean, selfish and dishonest stuff you’ve done in life, and how many dear people have forgiven you for all this. Realize you can only keep feeling this forgiveness if you keep giving it away, to those like the enemy of the day, who doesn’t deserve forgiveness any more or less than you did. So, Forgive whoever is making you angry. Resolve to avoid a silly war of revenge. Pray some blessings down on them. Hope they can learn to relax and calm down.
Ask God/your conscience if you can help answer that prayer, and how. Imagine your doing it, and that it will make a difference in the other person’s life somehow.
Do what you can to bless your enemy. Sometimes doing or saying anything, especially something kind, will make matter worse for the moment. SO do it later when things have calmed down. Meanwhile, Quit while you’re enemy thinks he’s ahead. This way he’s got no motive for continuing to attack you. Holding your hands up to your shoulders facing out says you’re holding nothing against your enemy to throw at him later, and you’re backing off. He can think he won if he wants to. Walk away and don’t look back. To clear your mind, get busy doing "the next right thing."
Now none of this stuff about forgiveness says anything about TRUST, trusting other people not to hurt you again, trusting yourself to handle it better if they did. Trust has to be both earned and given.
They say that a life well lived is the best revenge. I wholeheartedly agree. To take the high road up and out of the pig pen is just plain smart, and darn good for your blood pressure.
I was teaching some of these things recently to a hot-headed client for whom I’m doing some "anger management." His language is generally, shall we say, colorful. He often feels like people are doing bodily functions onto him, and he loves thinking how he’s going to get even.
I started explaining how to detach quietly and just let the other person keep her anger. I said often the best thing to do in a gunfight is to jump on the Forgiveness Stagecoach and take the high road out of Dodge. His eyes opened wide, and with a big smile he said:
"So if I rise above revenge, take the high road of forgiveness, and if I take that sewer pipe up there with me, I can make that sewer flow backwards, can’t I?" I never thought about it that way, but now, I can’t get his smile and his picture out of my mind. Or for that matter, my wife’s picture of the pig fight. Nothing like a good laugh to pull the plug on a cesspool!
Dr. Paul Schmidt is a psychologist life coach you can reach at [email protected], (502) 633-2860.