Last week I noticed my laptop computer cord started to have a wear spot where the skinny cord comes out of the power adaptor. I was surprised because I’m very careful how I treat anything to do with my laptop – my cheapness wants to avoid unnecessary repairs. That being said, it’s nine years old, so I can’t be that upset. After putting electrical tape over the wear spot, I soon realized the cord wasn’t worn; it was melting – that’s not good. I was in the middle of my work day, so my cord not working was a problem. Fortunately, I also have a new laptop I don’t use (I can’t let go of my old one because I love the keyboard so much), but when I grabbed it, the battery was dead and the cord was missing – also not good. After an half an hour of looking, nothing. In my head, I blamed my wife for moving it on me (you know, like an unorganized person does), so when she got home an hour later (I would’ve called, but she never has her phone on) I asked her about it… but she had no idea where it was – that was really not good and my frustration level was getting pretty high. After spending over three hours looking for the cord (that was a bad day) I eventually found the cord in the cereal cupboard above the stove – naturally. And who put it there? Probably me because the cupboard’s too high for my wife to see into – genius. Fortunately, while I had been looking, I hadn’t been rude to my wife even though I wanted to be – I was my natural grumpy self when I’m anxious, but not rude. My wife was amazing about the whole thing. She had helped to look when she could or she kept our two girls busy while I looked. Three times she said, “I’m really sorry you can’t find your cord,” and every time she said that very nice, affirming statement guess what I wanted to say: “Thank you for being so caring”? Nope, I wanted to scream, “Shuuuttt up!” Saying that would’ve been what I call a poor life choice. Fortunately, I kept my mouth shut and didn’t say anything stupid… but boy, did I want to. I wanted to scream and blame her and hate the world for my frustrations! Am I unique in this? Not at all. As we get angry, we get dumber, so it becomes harder and harder to bite our tongues, and even a nice comment like my wife gave me can push us over the edge because things are bubbling inside and the cork can be unleashed by even the nicest move by someone else. If my wife had of been rude and said something like “You always do this,” I don’t know how I would’ve responded. The wrong day, I probably would’ve snapped and on a good day, I would’ve been quiet and resented her – human nature is fun. Ultimately, as difficult and terrible as it can feel to bite our tongue in the moment, it’s so much better for us later – what’s hard in the moment pays off in the end; the easy road is a trap. Doing what’s easy or “feels” right in the moment almost always burns us in the end; people are made to have to work to be good. On the plus side, we can be proud of ourselves when we choose the right path.
To add to the challenge, biting our tongue in marriage is typically even harder than with other people. At home we don’t have the same distractions from our tiredness, which allows any feelings of being overwhelmed or worn out to be in the forefront of our minds. At home we also want to relax and not worry about being on “show” like with other people, so our social filter tends to disappear. Together, these factors make being nice at home a serious challenge. Fortunately, it can be done… it just means sometimes running out of a room and screaming in a pillow or punching the bed before returning in a calmer state. Acting how we feel in the moment, unfortunately, only leads to us being bad people.
Another time good people can become bad is when we constantly chase someone to be a friend. I remember as a kid begging my brother to throw a football around, shoot baskets, or throw a Frisbee, but he was typically too busy doing homework to play. When you’re in this vulnerable and weaker position wanting the other person to do something with you, you can eventually snap, “Fine! Screw you! I don’t need you!” This, of course, is not true and more wishful thinking because if you didn’t need that person, you wouldn’t have been asking them in the first place. Unfortunately, desperation paired with feelings of rejection can make us act out, which reinforces the other person not wanting to talk to us thereby reinforcing the feelings of desperation and rejection in the future. At the beginning of covid lockdowns, there was someone whose kids were close with mine I wanted to continue seeing for their social development. I ended up in a similar begging position like I was as a kid and it was really hard not to say “Screw you! I don’t need you!” because I didn’t want to need them; the problem was I did. Even as an adult, desperation has the same effect: Why don’t you care about me? In this situation it was worse because it was for my kids: Why won’t you do the smart thing for our kids? People in my position feeling constant rejection can be pushed to very atypical behavior, which sucks because we feel guilty about it later when it never would’ve happened if the other person had been more accommodating. That’s why when we have to say no to someone’s invitation we want to be quick to offer a rain check or another option later. At least if there’s a counter offer, the other person can feel acceptance. In this situation, both the desperate person and the rejecter can become bad people without meaning to if we’re not careful because if we make someone crazy, that’s as bad as being crazy.
A third time it’s easy for us to become bad is when we get a taste of power. When my daughter was two, she found my good Bible and started looking at it – my pastor/geekiness is clearly rubbing off on her. She knew she’s not supposed to touch it, and then accidentally ripped a page out of it. As soon as it ripped, I turned to see what she was doing and she had this incredibly panicked expression as she quickly said, “Saw-y Daddy; saw-y Daddy!” It may sound strange, but her fear and the amount of emotion she showed me felt good – you really care! Moments like this are what can lead to people becoming passive aggressive in the future as they want to feel that same sense of care and power in the future. Passive aggressive behavior is the communication/anger style that uses mind games, gaslighting, guilt trips, gossip, blackmail, vengeance, and punishing behaviors. It’s when someone plays a victim or gives the silent treatment to make others feel bad – if you feel bad, it means you care. It’s when someone wants the apology to “feel” like the person cares, and it’s almost like wanting the person to grovel. It’s the communication/anger style that ultimately makes us horrible people, but the power can feel sooooooo good: “That’s right; you apologize, and recognize my importance!” Unfortunately, as good as emotional power can feel it really damages other people and can destroy relationships; it’s like people don’t want to always feel bad – strange. The only times I haven’t seen healing in relationships is when one person is stuck on having this sense of power even if it’s to feel sorry for themselves. Passive aggressive behaviors are popular for a reason (power feels good), but we need to do our best to fight the temptation to be this way or they will make us bad people.
Bonus: To prevent being a bad person, we need to be doing our best to live a life that makes it easier for us to be nice. This includes having healthy stress levels, keeping ourselves physically healthy as best as possible, and recognizing the temptation to be a bad person in the three ways I described today.
This week may you fight any temptation to become a bad person.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)