I have a bad temper.
At home I have two drawers in the dresser of the spare room that my grandmother, whom I live with, said I am free to use. Recently we've had visitors who used the spare room. This morning, I opened the top drawer looking for a sweater and the drawer was empty. After a couple minutes search, I finally found my things in the bottom of the spare room closet crammed underneath some pillows. I was furious.
Why? Because, one, someone touched my stuff. This is a neurotic flaw of mine, a security issue. I know I have this flaw and am able to push aside any "trespass." Number one just sits packed down in my cup of stress like wet sand. What really set me off looking at that empty drawer, having to search for my belongings, and then finding them stuck in a closet is number two: you go for a visit to where someone resides, move that resident's things, and don't have the courtesy to return what you moved at your place of visitation back where you found it?
I was irate for fifteen minutes or so, but no one calms me down like the Holy Spirit for if most anyone else tries, it is like adding fuel on the fire. After reveling in anger, I was calm enough to hear, "Be slow to anger," something which, believe it or not, I've been trying to work on. Then I focused on God and who he is by listening to a song ("My Savior's Love Endures" by J.J. Heller). And the anger passed
This small experience brought to mind a, what I'm calling, philosophy that I've heard a few times lately: What you think, your thoughts, affect how you feel -- change your thoughts, change your feelings. The first time I heard this idea, I disagreed with it (which translated means I thought it crap, because I can be narrow-minded). The first time I heard this philosophy explained, I was offended; well, not so much offended as hurt and a small bit shamed. I've said before, guilt says, "You've done something wrong," while shame says, "There is something wrong with you." The further into the explanation of the philosophy -- how we shouldn't be Eeyores because that "Thanks for noticing me" kind of thinking is what makes us depressed -- the more I felt the orator was speaking insensitively, and the originator of the philosophy or rather the philosophy itself is insensitive.
My Thursday night Bible study group said the philosophy isn't saying, "Think positive thoughts, and life will be hunky-dory," and I agree (somewhat) with them that the intention behind the philosophy is not positive thinking leads to positive feelings -- or is it?
The first time I heard the philosophy, I disagreed with it because according to this idea that our thinking has direct affect on our feelings, means I essentially don't have a chance, nor does anyone living with a chemical balance that causes depression, however mild. Living with depression, you could be feeling fine when BAM you feel emotional pain or anger or sadness or anguish -- and for absolutely no good reason. As blogger Allie Brosh wrote about feeling sad for no reason: "Essentially, I was being robbed of my right to feel self-pity, which is the only redeeming part of sadness" (Hyperbole and a Half). Okay, so according to this philosophy that our thoughts control our feelings, I need to find the lie and replace it with the truth; don't be an Eeyore; take captive my thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5). But what happens when there is no lie?
I'll tell you a lie: because I feel sad or horrible sometimes, I'm clearly not controlling my thoughts. What a loser.
To be fair, that was not the intention of the speaker. If only the speaker had padded the words with some disclaimer like "I'm not talking about those who have a genuine problem..." whatever. I've heard this done before, and I appreciate it. But as the speaker did not, the words fell on a porcupine's back.
The next time I heard this philosophy, it was in the context of emotions. I'm sure the intention this time (as last) was: find the lie > replace it with the truth > have a little peace in your life. But it wasn't explained that way.
This morning's "incident" might be an example of that philosophy in a normal situation. I thought some people had acted discourteous to me, which led to me feeling livid. I turned my thoughts to God, and I didn't feel (so) angry anymore.
I suppose then this whole thing can be called a PSA: when you're spouting a philosophy related to feelings, remember those whose feelings cannot be controlled outside of normalcy. (I cringe slightly writing this because when I read similar "rants" I say "Lighten up people." So, even if you're thinking or saying that, I'm glad you've read this post through and can say it with authority and not dismissively as one who read only one or two lines of the post.)
This entire post could be chalked up to courteous behavior. My list of courteous behaviors is quite long (if you haven't guessed) and even I can't live up to my standards. Go ahead, you can call it self-righteousness if you want, but any discourteous behavior I call someone out on, I call myself out on too. And when I can't see that I'm being a jerk, for the love of all that is good and holy, please be me for me -- in a courteous fashion.