“Divide your page into two columns,” she instructed. “As things happen through the day that affect you emotionally, record what happened in the first column. Write down the emotion that you felt in the second column.”
I felt in complete control of my emotions. I thoroughly understood me. So I decided to keep an Emotions Diary just to feel good about myself. Not really. Well, maybe a little bit. I imagined scenarios such as:
Column 1: Baby keeps crying. Column 2: Love and compassion.
Column 1: Hot water heater broke. Column 2: Gratitude that Husband can fix it.
Column 1: Grocery money runs out. Column 2: Peace and trust in God to provide.
Oh, how I reveled in my imaginary composure!
Monday morning after the seminar I got out my sheet of paper and made my neat columns. I placed the paper and a pencil on the kitchen counter, thinking, “Life, just bring it on. I can’t wait to write something down.” I smugly began my day.
It didn’t take long for life to happen. A phone call. A long phone call. A long phone call from a whiney woman. She talked so much I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. While she was talking I wrote:
Column 1: LONG whiney phone call. Column 2: Angry. Could she just get over herself?
I prayed for an interruption so I could hang up, like maybe the Rapture. Or maybe the baby could cry so I would have a good excuse. The baby did cry. I hung up. But the baby didn’t stop crying.
Column 1: Grrr. Baby keeps crying. Column 2: Angry. WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?! I meant what was wrong with Baby, not me.
I added to the list throughout the day.
Column 1: Homemade cookies came out crunchy, not chewy. Column 2: AAUGH! Angry.
Column 1: Nursery duty tonight -- a kid threw up and I had to clean it up. Column 2: GAG! I hate throw-up. Angry. Why me!? Also, no one seemed to appreciate that. Grrr. Angry again.
By the end of the day, I had used the paper to record numerous entries, to jot a couple of notes, write down a phone message, and doodle. It had a large grease stain from when I was whipping the butter and sugar for the cookies and the beater suddenly detached from the mixer and rocketed across the kitchen (Column 2: Angry).
I looked through Column 2. Reading past the commentary and butter stain, I saw the same word over and over again. “Just as I suspected,” I sighed to myself. “I’m an angry person.”
I felt flattened, deflated. And ashamed. For the root of anger is pride. “Only by pride cometh contention.” Prov. 13:10.
Thomas à Kempis, in The Imitation of Christ, said, “Continual peace is with the humble; but in the heart of the proud is envy and frequent indignation.”
How much of each day is wasted on “frequent indignation,” anger, or irritation? What a waste! What a robber of peace, and destroyer of composure. Fortunately, we have a loving Father who lets us take out an entirely new sheet of paper each day. Life still happens. But He works with us to create new responses for Column 2.
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