Happy 2014! As we start a new year, we are proud to introduce True Growth News. This month's newsletter is our first and will focus on the importance of controlling one's emotions. Each newsletter will focus on an area of the True Growth experience and will end with a key takeaway as well as a journaling question for your reflection. We hope you both enjoy and benefit from the following story as well as the ones to follow. Most importantly, we hope 2014 is a year of growth and significance.
Byrd & Lawson
Toothpaste & Toilet Paper
In 1990 my family and I were stationed in Germany. We resided in a stairwell apartment best described as cozy. There may have been a total of 850 square feet including three bedrooms and one bath. My son had begun his senior year of high school, my daughter, her sophomore year. There were a number of rules that had been established and compliance was expected by all. Two of those rules had been decreed by me and were non-negotiable; never squeeze the toothpaste from the center of the tube, and never leave the toilet paper holder empty.
There came a time when the frequency of violation of these "important" rules surpassed my level of tolerance. When noticed, I lost all sense of reasonable self-control, raising my voice to a level of a scream and leveling threats that went beyond the death penalty. It seemed that time after time I would enter the bathroom and there in plain view was the toothpaste tube clearly squeezed from the center portion. As if that were not enough to ruin my day, the only visible evidence of toilet paper on the holder was the cardboard spool! The audacity of my family! Why were these two simple rules consistently violated? Was this is a test of my role as head of the household? The obvious disrespect could not be tolerated, so the very next time that I entered the scene of the recurring crime I really exploded. My voice seemed to shake the walls of the apartment, my body convulsing in anger. I ranted for about 10 minutes. I could not get anyone to respond. My daughter calmly shut her bedroom door, my wife continued to be busy in the kitchen acting as if I were nothing more than a character on the TV.
The door to my son's room opened and Matt approached me cautiously but deliberately. "Dad, can I talk to you?" I immediately began to think, what can a 17 year old high school senior possibly say that could reduce my angst and turmoil? I acquiesced.
"Dad, we are not your soldiers and this is silly, so silly that I have been purposely denting the toothpaste tube and removing the toilet paper and putting the empty roll on just to see your reaction. I am speaking for everyone when I say neither of these things is that important for you to blow up like you do. If you were to die in combat, I would be sad but I could explain it, but if you have a heart attack over toothpaste or toilet paper what could I say to people?" (Is feedback a gift or what?)
Oh the honesty and candidness of youth! I had been taken to school by my son. Similar to the Grinch, who experienced heart growth when he learned the true spirit of Christmas, I underwent a comfort zone growth beyond description as reality smacked me in the face. It was not so much that my rules were incorrect, but my reactions were flawed. As I thought about the wisdom in my son's message I wondered how many other things and times did I react with rage and loss of emotion? The change in me was immediate and everlasting. I began to step back from moments of heightened emotions and considered the importance and the impact of my reaction. I worked hard to keep things in perspective. I was sensitive to the fact that my reactions had impact on others and not always the impact that I wanted. I reevaluated "important" and violations of toothpaste and toilet paper rules no longer rated a priority in my life.
True Growth Takeaway:
It's important that we not let negative emotions control our actions. There is wisdom in thinking about the consequences of our words before we speak.
Do you sometimes let negative emotions rule you? If so, what one behavior can you improve to keep them under control?
About the author:
Bob Dare served 28 years in the United States Army. He held every noncommissioned officer leadership position culminating with his last three assignments as Command Sergeant Major for the 25th Infantry Division, United States Army Pacific Command and United States Army Forces Command. Bob is also an executive coach and facilitator for LWM III Consulting.