Monday, October 8, 2012

How Do You Speak?

By 
Chris Newcomb, M.Div. 

"What are words for when no one listens anymore?"  It's a great question.  Those words were sung in the early 1980's by the band Missing Persons.  While I agree that many people aren't that great at listening these days, I also contend that words are very, very important!

For example, if words aren't important, why do we tell people, "I love you"?   It's certainly has some deeper meaning than just a frivolous verbal greeting.  We tell them that because we want them to know that they are valuable to us.  Words do matter.

One time when we need to watch our words is when we are angry.  I remember about 10 years ago I took a group of high school students down to New Orleans to give out hygiene kits to the homeless.  It was a great time save for one unfortunate event.  All the students had been prepped ahead time about behavioral expectations and knew that we would send them back home on a greyhound bus if they misbehaved.  All in all, the kids were well-behaved except for one student.  

To be fair, John* came from a rough background.  He was spending his money a little to quickly early in the trip.  One of my associates was gently encouraging him to curb his spending habits as I was walking by one afternoon.  John got angry and yelled at the other adult telling him what he could kiss and where.  This was in front of about 40 other people.  At that moment, I knew I was sending John home if not that afternoon than the next day for sure.  

I gathered my leaders together (7 including me) and we each cast a vote on whether to send John home.  It was a 3-3 split amongst my leaders.  To be fair, I didn't want to be the tie breaker so I deferred to my supervisor.  He instructed me to give John one more chance.  

As I was walking back to tell John he had been given a last minute stay, a student came up to me and informed me that John was talking badly about me the entire time I was talking to my supervisor.  Upon hearing the news, I immediately decided that John has just used his last chance.  When I got to where he was, I informed him of my supervisor's decision and then what I heard about him saying about me and then my new decision to send him home anyway.  What happen next I couldn't have guessed in a million years!

As the weight of my decision took hold of John, he responded loudly and with conviction and cursed me out using only the F-word.  I was stunned.  I was insulted.  I felt disrespected.  I was angry.  I wanted to retaliate.  At that moment, I froze.  I weighed my options and decided to silently turn and walk away.  So I did.  I turned and walked.  And walked.  And walked.  I walked for about 2-3 city blocks without ever looking back.  I had never been so insulted in all my life!  

Eventually, I came back.  We told John we cared about him and expected to see him hang out with the group when we returned to Virginia.  I had my doubts he would.  

Eventually, John humbled himself, came back around with the other students and apologized to me.  I forgave him.  He went on to serve in the U.S. Army in Iraq and was severely wounded by a bomb that exploded nearby.  Today, he is healed from his injuries, married, a new father, and retired from the Army.  

The point is this: words carry power.  John's words will always ring in my head when I think of him although I've forgiven him.  It permanently altered our relationship although I think for the better in the end. 

How do you deal with your anger?  Do you express yourself in an honest, cool, collected,  fashion when someone makes you angry or do you fly off the handle like John did at me?  We all get angry from time and time.  It is ok to be emotionally honest and share our anger too.  However, we must temper, pardon the pun, our words with self-restraint.  How will you deal with your anger today?  Tonight?  Next month?  Next year?  Plan ahead so the words will be beautiful and not ugly!  

At The Coleman Institute, we specialize in helping people get clean clean and stay clean from alcohol and drugs.  We love serving addicts and alcoholics.  Many of our patients are angry when they arrive because they're sick and tired of being sick and tired, so to speak.  However, many leave that anger here when they leave from a successful detox experience.  If you or someone you love is in need of detox from opiatesalcohol, benzos, Methadone, or Suboxone, please do not hesitant to call Jennifer Pius at 1-877-77-DETOX (33869).  Help, hope and healing begin here!

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