Baltimore Riots: The Danger of Pent Up Negative Emotions

Negative emotions can build up without us even realizing it and have disastrous consequences. Take the recent riots in Baltimore, for example. Years of pent up frustration and resentment erupted in a city-wide looting and rioting spree this week. Stores were vandalized. People were injured. Residents are shocked and alarmed. The governor has declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard. The mayor has ordered a curfew and police are patrolling the city with guns and weapons. The triggering event was the unnecessary death of a black youth while in the custody of city police. But why this violent reaction many ask?

We can ask the same question about the mass killings of innocent school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School or the shootings at Columbine, Aurora movie theatre, to name just a few. In my humble opinion, the root cause of aggressive violence, barring mental illness, is the inability to process one’s negative emotions. We all have them. Stress from our jobs, school, our relationships, unfair treatment in the workplace and in the community can build up to an intolerable crescendo unless we learn to handle it in positive ways.

A video clip of a Baltimore city mom cursing and hitting her kid over the head has made headlines. Some people are condoning her actions.

I ask this question “What is she teaching her son?” Yes, I understand she was concerned and afraid for him. Any mother would be. But how we parents act in the difficult situations of life is how our kids are going to act when we’re not around. I have seen many a mom smacking her kid, yelling at a child, and in general, being totally out of control. I have lost my temper a time or two when I was raising my kids as a single parent. One day, it dawned on me. What am I teaching my kids? It was a rude but necessary awakening.

Not only do we need to educate the kids on how to handle their emotions, we need to educate the parents. Do you think it is appropriate to curse and whack a child on the head to discipline them? We expect these kids to show respect to others, but if it has never been shown to them, this is an unrealistic expectation. Kids model the behavior that has been modeled to them. Remember the old adage, action speaks louder than words. So what can we do as parents? Here are some constructive ways we can better manage our emotions and hopefully, pass these on to our kids.

1) Allow myself to feel my emotions – negative as well as positive. Do not suppress or “stuff” them. Do not allow them to build up without expression.

2) Do not judge myself for having any type of emotion or feeling. Emotions and feelings are fleeting and temporary but they are messages that have a purpose.

3) Observe myself feeling the emotion. Identify the bodily reactions I experience such as a tight stomach, a headache, or stiff neck.

4) Understand the triggering event. Our thoughts trigger our emotions. What negative thought did I have that caused me to feel this way?

5) Realize an emotion does not control us. We control it. Take a few deep breaths to regain control.

6) Consider what positive action to take to change the situation. If the situation is out of my control, then I need to work on changing the way I perceive a situation. There is always a different way to view things.

7) Commend myself for being aware of my feelings and emotions. We will feel much more in control of our lives when we make a conscious choice rather than act on emotion.

Researchers have long studied the effects of yelling at kids. Here’s a link from Today’s Parent which says “Adolescents whose parents had been using yelling as a discipline method were more likely to have behavioral issues and to act out (including with vandalism and violence).”

This is a difficult and complicated subject to address. Negative emotions are not the only cause of violent behavior, but they are a big part of the problem in today’s society. Many people prefer to put on a happy face and ignore the issues, but sooner or later, things come to the surface in one way or another. Negative emotions are normal. Everyone has them. The key is how to manage them in healthy and appropriate ways.

What ideas do you have on how to handle your emotions? What do you think this mom’s behavior is teaching her son? What other ways do you use to discipline your kids? Do comment below.

Until next time, keep looking up!


What To Do When the Unexpected Happens

Do you often find yourself frustrated and worn out trying to solve every problem on your own? We think we’ve got all the bases covered and then, poof – something out of the blue tries to put a monkey wrench in the works. What then? Do we yell and scream? Cuss out the cat, the dog, the kids, or the spouse?

As a single parent and the child of an alcoholic father, I have felt the need to control situations probably more so than I need to. Perhaps, like me, you’ve felt you have to “do it all” and found yourself crumbling under the mountain of to-do lists. In the past, I chalked it all up to “being responsible” but I think there is more to it than that. No matter how much I may think I have things under control, inevitably something happens to let me know that I am not. What’s good about this is that no matter what happens, all I have to do is give it to God and He will step in and make things right. Somehow. God’s grace is an amazing thing and when we start to expect it and look for it in our lives, more of it seems to show up. To give you an example, allow me to share a situation that happened this week and see what you think.

About a month ago, I purchased airline tickets online for my mom, my son, and myself. My mom’s tickets were purchased on a different airlines since she would be flying from another city. I filled out the credit card information, selected seating, and even put in a request for elderly assistance. My mom was adamant that we get the flight paid for quickly since she was getting a good price. When I submitted the information, I am quite sure I received a confirmation message because I remember uttering a sigh of relief.

Fast forward to this week, my mom was asking questions about her ticket.

“Let me see if I ever got an email from the airlines confirming your flight,” I said as I perused my inbox.

“Nope, nothing. I don’t see anything from them. I don’t remember whether I put my email address on your ticket or not,” I said.

A few hours later, I’m taking a nap, and my cell phone starts going off. It was my mom.

“I just called the airlines and they said my ticket was cancelled. I called my bank and they have no record of the ticket being purchased either,” she said in a frenzied tone of voice.

“Ok, Ma, calm down. Let me call the airlines and see what happened.”

Sure enough, the agent tells me there was one ticket in the system but it was put on hold and then the system cancelled it out. This certainly seemed bizarre to me. There was no way I had put that ticket on hold, as adamant as my mom was to get the fare.

“Is there any way I can get repurchase the ticket?” I asked.

“Not at that price,” replied the agent. “That price is no longer in the system.”

Not knowing what else to do, I asked to speak to a supervisor.

“Hold please, while I get one for you,”.

It was quite a while before someone came back on the line but I did have time to send up a prayer.

“Lord, please show us your favor in this situation. Thank you so much.”

When the supervisor finally came on the line she said her name was Miss Sophie. Funny, that is my mom’s name too.

To make a long story short, the supervisor agreed to repurchase the ticket for us at the exact same fare, with better seats and with no additional fees for phone service.

I hung up the phone.

“Hallelujah! Thank you, Lord!” I exclaimed.

I have to admit. This is quite a change of behavior from years past. I would let someone else’s upset become my upset. Now I have learned I don’t have to take on emotionally or energetically someone else’s problem. I don’t have to fix everything by myself. Here are some simple steps I use to help keep from losing my cool when something unexpected happens.

1. Take a deep breath and pause before responding.

2. Maintain my composure by keeping my voice low and slow.

3. Reassure the other person everything is going to be fine.

4. Pray! Ask God for wisdom and direction.

5. Take time to step back and think logically about a solution.

6. Take the necessary action steps without apprehension about what could happen.

7. Relax and give the outcome to God. Trust Him to handle it after I’ve done my part.

We all have unexpected events show up in our lives. The key is to not let them throw us of kilter for very long. If we get really good at it, perhaps there will come a day when they won’t throw us off kilter at all!

Love to hear your feedback on this post so please leave a comment or click the +1 icon. Until next time, keep looking up!


7 Communication Styles & How to Improve Yours

Have trouble communicating with others? Are you shy and introverted or gregarious and extroverted? Good communication is an art and a practice. It is a critical component in healthy long-term relationships. The way we communicate with others can make or break a relationship. People have different styles of speaking. Some, like my Mom, like to chit chat about what ever is going on in their day, others like to discuss sports or the latest news event, while others prefer to discuss deeper topics that stimulate thought and reflection. All of these are perfectly fine, depending on the circumstances. The key is to recognize what style we use and be aware of how to connect with people who have a different style than our own.

Today I am sharing the 7 types of communication styles I have encountered. There are probably more, but these are the ones I have noticed. Perhaps you recognize yourself in one or more of them as I do. Sometimes we are not even be aware of our communication style and wonder why we have difficulties in connecting with others.

But first, what actually is good communication? Is it simply idle chatter or is there more to it? Good communication is uplifting and edifying to the hearer. Words are spoken gently rather than harshly so that our words are soothing rather than abrasive to the listener. It is not only the words we speak, but how we say them.

Good communication is a two-way street. There is a healthy give and take between speakers. One person does not monopolize the conversation for long periods of time – that is called a monologue. In order to foster intimacy and connection, we need to be willing to share our inner thoughts and feelings with safe people.

Three questions we can ask ourselves before we open our mouths are these:
1) Is it kind?
2) Is it encouraging?
3) Is it necessary?

If what we are going to say does not pass this litmus test, it may be best to remain silent. Listening is a gift we give to others. I used to tell my sons we need to listen more than we speak and that is why God gave us two ears and one mouth.

Today we’ll take a look at some different styles of communication. Not everyone has the same style of communication and it is important to realize this in any relationship if it is to flourish. The more aware we are of our own communication styles, the more selective we will become in choosing friends and partners in life. It is not a matter of one style being better than the other. It is a matter of the two styles meshing together harmoniously. Most of us use a mixture of several styles and sometimes we may need to modify our style to foster better connection.

1. The self-conscious speaker:
This type of person shares slowly and very little. They speak in short sentences and are usually the quiet ones in any group. They need to be made comfortable and then coaxed to come out of their shell. Once a certain level of trust is achieved, they will slowly share more. They need to be encouraged when they do speak.

2. The small talk speaker :
These people love to spend hours on the phone just talking about their day, their dog, the weather, the latest sitcom. These people like to “shoot the breeze” as it’s called. They value talking for the sake of talking.

3. The negative speaker:
These folks come in different flavors but the commonality is their conversation is negative. They also focus on negative events as a source of discussion. They complain often. They bemoan their lot in life on a regular basis. These conversations are unhealthy and unproductive and they do not foster healthy relationships. Negative speakers have a negative world-view and unless you are one of them, you may not enjoy a relationship with one.

4. The goal-oriented speaker:
These folks call with a purpose in mind. They have a request, or a question that needs answering. They consider small talk a waste of time. Their conversations tend to be direct and to the point. They need to understand others are not all like this and balance their conversations with some personal connecting.

5. The self-absorbed speaker:
These people are similar to those in #2. The difference being they only talk about themselves and what’s going on in their lives. They rarely, if ever, ask you about your day, how you are feeling, or give you time to share something from your day. If they do, they are usually not paying attention to your response and move on to their next sentence without a validating response to what you have said. These are the people that go on and on and you can’t get a word in edge-wise. They need to take a breather and learn to listen more and give feedback on what the other person has shared.

6. The withholding speaker:
This person is on the secretive side. He/she shares, but only partially. If you are around this person long enough, you will begin to realize information is not being shared in a timely manner or you will hear the “news” from other people before you hear it from them. They do not realize that withholding information is harmful to the relationship especially if the other person is sharing personal information and they are not.

7. The deep thinkers:
I’ve been told I fall into this category. I much prefer to talk about deeper subjects rather than mundane ones. I like to get to know a person’s innermost thoughts and beliefs and understand the why of things. Deep thinkers tend to see connections where other people don’t. These types of speakers need to seek out other deep thinkers. They will be on the same wave-length and feel less irritated by people whose communication style has less depth.

One more tip for good communicating is to utilize pauses. After you finish a few sentences, take a breath. Wait and count to three and allow the other person to respond. If you are on the listening end, pause and count to three before you start talking to make sure the other person has finished what they wanted to say. This will help to ensure a smooth and balanced flow to the conversation.

Have you identified your communication style in any of the above? What changes can you make to improve your conversations? Would love to hear your feedback on this topic so please leave a comment. If you enjoyed this post, please click the +1 Google icon to let me know.

Until next time, keep looking up!


God Feels What You Feel

Emotions are powerful. They can energize and motivate us and they can bring us to our knees. They put the spring in our step and take the wind out of our sails. Emotions are God-given and to be honored, not suppressed. Some of us are more emotional than others and this is sometimes seen as weakness. In reality, the more we are in touch with our emotions, the more we are in touch with our heart, the hearts of others and the heart of God.

What grieves your heart? Is it rejection? Abandonment? Loss? Unfaithfulness? Abuse? Being misunderstood? Jesus suffered all of these. He knows all about pain. He endured it all for our sakes and to save our souls from death and eternal separation from God. I cannot even fathom how it must have grieved God to see His only Son hanging there on the cross, pierced and bleeding for our transgressions. What grieves God the most today?

It grieves God when we deny our emotions and we stuff, suppress, and ignore the still small voice deep inside otherwise known as the Holy Spirit.  God is always speaking to us. The question is are we listening? Emotions are one of the ways God speaks to and thru our hearts. But we must allow ourselves to be sensitive. It takes a lot of courage and the grace of God to do this.

Both men and women struggle in this area of emotions. Society has taught us it is weakness to express emotion and that it is shameful to cry. The truth is there is no shame in crying. The shame is in hardening our hearts and putting up a wall around them. When we cry, it shows we care. Do you think God didn’t cry when he saw Jesus on the cross? Do you think he doesn’t cry when he sees injustice and mistreatment?

Although others may shake their heads in disgust like the Pharisees did to Jesus, God sees what each of us has and is going through and He cries with us. He does not mock, jeer, or judge like the crowds did. People, like myself, who have been wounded much by the punches of life, have a lot of tears. But God promises that one day He will dry every tear. He has captured them all in a bottle. He sees every punch thrown at us because He allowed it to happen.

The good news is this. God never wastes the pain and there is a purpose in every punch. We may not understand at the time and that is where we have a choice. We can either respond in doubt and unbelief, or in trust and faith. Pain is how our faith grows stronger. Every punch life throws at us is another opportunity to trust God.

As we remember what Jesus went thru on the cross, how we was abandoned by his closest friends, and even by God himself, let us remember – Sunday is coming! Victory over our pain and circumstances can be ours when we put our faith in Christ and not in men.

What punches has life thrown you, dear child of God? How many tears have you cried? How many times have you been judged unfairly or misunderstood? Rest in the knowing that God sees all and he is faithful to wipe away every tear and replace them all with unspeakable joy. Until then, do not harden your heart or put up a wall. Reach out to others who are hurting and God will reach out to you.

Until next time, I leave you with one of my favorite prayers by St. Francis of Assisi and I encourage you to embrace both the joy and the suffering of the cross. Jesus paid for all our sins and indeed He is risen. Happy Resurrection and to God be the glory!

Has Easter Lost Its Meaning?

What will you be doing this Easter Sunday? Spending time with family and friends? Sharing a meal? Or perhaps you’ve chosen to take a vacation. If so, you are blessed. But there are many who do not have family and friends. Others don’t have money to put food on the table much less take a vacation. Some will be working hard this Sunday. Theirs is quite a different Easter.

Statistics show church attendance continues to drop, yet the innate hunger we feel to be spiritually fed and comforted is still within the human heart. We search for avenues to assuage our guilt, our pain, and our shame. Many hide under a facade of fancy clothes, a big house, or the latest techno gadgetry. But God sees the heart. He sees the pain, the shame, and the guilt that burden us. He wants to set us free from all of these and that, my friends, is the meaning of Easter.

Easter is a time for renewal and for forgiveness. It is a time to let go of the old, and embrace the new. It is a time to let God heal our heart, by filling it with the great love he has to offer us through His son, Jesus Christ. It is up to each of us whether or not we choose to receive this love.

As a soul who has endured much pain in this life, I am thankful for the love of God, for His great grace and mercy in my life. I am not perfect. I sin many times, sometimes daily. But I know, through the blood of Christ, I don’t have to bear that burden into tomorrow. My life has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; so in a spirit of humility and thankfulness, I offer some reflections on what Easter means to me, and I trust that they will encourage and comfort you. When we pause to look at the cross, somehow it puts our “light and momentary afflictions” in perspective.

Easter reminds me that:

– I have another opportunity for transformation and change

– miracles still happen if we have eyes to see

– God’s grace is sufficient for me

– Jesus paid the price for all my sins and mistakes

– God is always there no matter how far away I drift from Him

– no matter how dark it may look on Friday, Sunday is coming

– when I wonder “Does God really love me?” all I have to do is look at Jesus’ outstretched arms on the cross and hear him say “I love you this much”

– when I am suffering, I know Jesus has suffered so much more than I ever will and that makes my pain more bearable

– no matter what I have lost or how much I have been hurt or mistreated, God can bring me healing and peace

Easter still has meaning for those of us who choose to visit the cross. Yes, it takes courage. Yes, it takes boldness and strength, but remember the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi who wrote these words:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

May this Easter fill you with the love of God, heal your broken places, and make you new.

Until next time, keep looking up!