by Joy Martin, Set Me Free Ministries Co-founder
I learned a valuable lesson this week. Luckily, it was one that I didn’t have to learn the hard way—well, at least not this time around. Nonetheless, when the situation had passed, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought about how differently the situation might have played out if I’d followed my initial gut reaction.
I can’t tell you how many times my father has given me the following piece of advice when responding to any given situation: Before reacting in anger or frustration, sleep on it. After you have a chance to cool down, you will be in a better state of mind to respond appropriately. That advice has served me well over the years—when I’ve followed it, that is—and it’s advice that I will happily pass along to my children.
This week’s lesson came to me courtesy of Julie, my five-year-old daughter. One morning before school we had a conversation that caught me off guard and led me to believe that something was going on in her kindergarten classroom that I didn’t approve of. I immediately knew that I needed to contact her teacher. The question was, what would I say? How would I respond?
My initial reaction, as is often the case, was filled with anger and slightly off the deep end. My mind automatically went to the worst-case scenario. As I continued to get the kids ready for school, I thought about all the different ways this upcoming conversation might play out. At one point, I had myself speaking with the principal and maybe even the school board. My heart was beating fast, and my mind was racing—my imagination was running wild and getting the best of me.
Luckily, I was unable to respond immediately, because I had to get the kids to school. And so, I had time to collect my thoughts. I called both my mom and my sister and talked the situation though with each of them. Finally, I decided that I would send a rather vague email to Julie’s teacher and ask to speak to her directly. Email, after all, can easily take on an unintended tone, and that was the last thing I wanted to happen.
When Julie’s teacher called, I was ready to calmly explain myself and defend my position. I was well prepared, because I’d stewed over the situation all day. It’s also important to note that I prayed about the situation. I prayed that I would have the right words to say. I prayed for protection for my daughter and myself. And I prayed that everything would be resolved easily.
Instead of taking an accusatory stance, I simply asked the teacher to tell me about what was going on in the classroom regarding this specific instance. To my relief, Julie had somehow become confused or gotten her wires crossed, and her description of the situation wasn’t the case at all. I breathed a sigh of relief and then laughed with the teacher about how easy it is for a five-year-old to mix up different events in her life. And so my worries were put to rest. There was no battle, no upset call to the principal, no speaking before the school board—praise God!
Looking back, I had to laugh at myself. I had gotten all worked up over what turned out to be nothing. But even if it had turned out to be something I really did need to be concerned about and address, I know I handled it in a way that would have led to a peaceful conversation. I hadn’t used harsh words or thrown accusations around. I hadn’t placed blame on anyone. Instead, I approached the situation with a level head and a calm demeanor.
I have always loved the book of Proverbs. It holds such wonderful nuggets of wisdom. This past week, it was Proverbs 21:23 that rang true for me: “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.”