Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dealing with Frustration

I don't always do my best work. Sometimes I deviate from the plan, sometimes I lower my standards or get lazy, and sometimes I let myself or others down. If I feel that I am not performing up to the standards of which I'm capable, I can get really frustrated with myself. I frequently get angry about my weaknesses and my imperfections. I don't like falling short, and when I do, I often berate myself. I can call myself names and say things that would be absolutely crushing if they were said to me by someone else. Then I become paralyzed by that negativity, and I'm unable to move forward again until I can purge it from my system.

I've been an imperfect sinner my whole life. I'm used to screwing up. So why do I still get so angry with myself when it happens? I am very quick to comfort others when mistakes happen and to assure them that these things just happen sometimes. So why do I have so much trouble internalizing this lesson for myself? My negative reactions only make my problems worse. Drowning myself in guilt, shame, anger, and self-loathing makes it impossible for me to move forward until I put those feelings behind me. I need to learn to relax and just let the mistakes and shortcomings go so that I'm free to get on with my life. What's done is done, and all can be forgiven. Instead of raging against myself, I need to take my problems to God and allow Him to release me from them. Then I can focus on the positive work I'm trying to do and re-center my life on love.

A few nights ago, I got really upset with myself over a couple of self-control lapses and a dumb mistake or two. My hormones got the best of me, and I got really angry. I started railing against all the imperfections that I could see in myself. I called myself names that I would never apply to another person. My husband was appalled. He told me I shouldn't get so angry with myself and that I shouldn't punish myself with this kind of vitriol. I knew he was right, but it was so difficult to rein in those feelings. I asked God to help me find peace, and then we went to bed.

Not long after that, I woke myself up by shifting positions in bed and discovered that my husband was still awake. He started telling me about a problem that he was having and his fears that he would fall short. He was frustrated that he wasn't performing as well as he thought he should at a particular task, and he was worried that I might be disappointed in him if he didn't do well enough. I calmly explained to him that I love him very much and that I would help him get through his problem. If things went wrong, it wouldn't be the end of the world. I would help him deal with it, and I wouldn't be upset. I tried to show him that there were a lot of extenuating circumstances that were contributing to his struggles, and I explained how proud I was of the effort he was putting in. I told him that he should just do the best he can, and that I won't be disappointed, no matter what the result is. I could see that he needed reaffirmation, not threats or lectures. I held his hand and prayed for him, and then I rolled over and went back to sleep.

It's pretty clear that my reaction to my own struggles was radically different from my reaction to my husband's struggles. I was livid with myself but sympathetic and encouraging with him. His reactions show the same polarity—he tried to soothe and console me during my outburst even as he was nursing his own fears. We were both so willing to apply a level head and a loving heart to each other's problems. Yet when it came to our own problems, we got lost in fear and anger.

This observation has taught me two very important lessons:
  1. I need to stop checking my compassion at the door when I deal with my own problems. Love is healthy and anger is not, so when I make mistakes, I need to react with love instead of anger. I challenge myself to do this for other people, so I need to do it for myself, too.
  2. I need to appreciate how lucky I am to have loved ones who will rescue me from my destructive behavior when I fall short of lesson #1. My husband's wise words forced me to recognize that my tirade was not helping and gave me the strength to ease out of it.
I hope that I remember these lessons the next time I deal with a bout of personal frustration.

1 comment:

Bobbie Sue WV(29) said...

this has helped me so much thanks For sharing!

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