Do you ever do the thing you do not want to do?
“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
Have you ever really blown it with your kids, your spouse, a friend, even a stranger? Said things you hadn’t meant to say? Got on a roll and felt like you couldn’t stop yourself? Most of us experience this at least a few times in our lives.
I’m far from an exception. And I’ve grown up enough to know when to put a clamp on my mouth, usually. But still, I had one of these incidents the other day. I found myself doing the very thing I did not want to do.
I was so happy (you would not have known this from my behavior) to have my daughter home. She moved out in June, started a new job, and I’ve barely heard a word from her since. At least that’s how it feels (Warning—these kinds of feelings can usually not to be trusted!). There was an occasional text, a rushed phone conversation, a few posts on Facebook…nothing very satisfying.
My sadness had blossomed into anger. Ever do that? Allow your sadness to grow the fruit of bitterness? Guilty.
So when she got home, when she walked in the door, I rushed over to her with--instead of the hugs, love, and welcome I had intended--disdain and resentment.
She was caught off guard; her eyes were wide, her face flushed. She lurched back, away from me. You’d think that would’ve stopped me. But no, it did not. I started right in on her lack of communication. My disappointment in her not responding to me. My frustration and fear that she was gone and wasn’t looking back.
“Mom…stop. I feel attacked. Please, I’m exhausted. I’ve just finished one of the most stressful weeks of my life.”
I didn’t say anything. I stopped…temporarily.
Then we got in the car. Through a tight jaw, clenching the steering wheel, I barraged her with questions.
The first one was about her boyfriend. How was he doing?
“Mom…don’t you want to hear about me?”
Well, maybe, but more than that I wanted to zing her, to knock her independent successful self-sufficient self down a peg. Who did she think she was not needing me? I wasn’t feeling very good emotionally anyway. There had been a lot of stress and tension in our family lately. I was in a weakened state. Was this my feeble hurtful attempt to hold desperately on to her when I felt I was losing my grip? To feel somehow in control at a time when I’m not (are we ever really?)?
Believe it or not, I continued to hammer away at my precious child. She was the scapegoat for all my fear, sadness, grief, and pain. I asked her questions about her job, apartment, commute, church, music, friendships…and at every turn where at all possible, I took a pot shot. Instead of building her up and encouraging her, I poked and prodded going for the chink in her self confidence.
I’m amazed my daughter answered me at all. But she rose above my bad behavior and did her best to build a bridge of communication between us. I almost felt like I was watching myself, trying, but unable, to stop. The more I went on, the harder it was to stop.
My younger daughter cried, “Can’t we just enjoy each other when we’re together?”
That did it. Finally, I stopped.
I dug my heels in for a couple of hours. I justified my vicious even evil behavior (to myself, not aloud). But in a couple of hours, I stopped fending off the guilt, remorse, sorrow over what I had done. I apologized and my sweet daughter forgave me. She extended grace I didn’t deserve. In that beautiful innocent face, I caught a glimpse of God.
Do you ever find yourself expressing your pain with anger? Do you ever let loose with your emotions, know you should stop, but find yourself going on and on anyway? Do you live in regret? There is so much freedom in forgiveness…why not take this opportunity to say you’re sorry? I pray you too will receive grace.
The weekend was busy and my daughter and I didn’t have a one-on-one opportunity to really talk about what had happened. I did some self/soul searching. I looked at the roots of my sadness and agitation that I had tended and allowed to sprout into anger. I thought a lot about what I had done. And today the opportunity arose for me to explain a little further, absolutely not to excuse, just to let my daughter know I had indeed been thinking about what I had done, why I had done it, how wrong it was, and how I can convert pain into anger, some of which had nothing at all to do with her. I know what I did is not okay, but it is forgivable. I don’t want to behave this way again. And with God’s help, I’m slowly becoming a new creation. But I will continue to falter. My daughter thanked me for thinking so seriously about what I had done and for sharing it with her…and apologizing once again. And she forgave me, once again. Grace!