I’m a teacher and that means I interact with human beings for a living, and not just casually either. I’m building relationships and caring deeply about their futures and success. I’m also a mom and wife and find that so much my own well-being is wrapped around how my family is doing. I’m a friend, a daughter, a sister, and an aunt. I’m a neighbor, church member, and coworker. I bet you could list quite a lot of your own titles as well.
The reason I want you to think about this is because each one of those relationships creates an opportunity for additional stress in your life. And this is normal. You are HUMAN. Therefore, with the holidays and the heightened opportunities for interacting with others while you and they might be experiencing some additional stress, I want to offer you some thoughts that might keep you from adding additional stress to your own life.
#1: You are not responsible for other people’s reactions or feelings
This might sound harsh but it is 100% truth. You are responsible for your own actions and feelings. At the end of the day, you can have effects on others but they still get to choose. For example: Let’s say that all I wanted to do Sunday evening was change into my pajamas, get under my most cozy throw-blanket, and read my favorite book. Then, my favorite friends in the world decide to stop by, knowing we would be home. Let’s say that I also had a splitting headache and hadn’t got any sleep the night before. At this point so many choices can be made. I could invite them in and decide to enjoy the time with them, use words and actions to let them know they are welcomed and loved. Or when they show up, I could be rude and cranky and let them know that they have made things worse by showing up uninvited and unexpected. I get to choose how to react. But, they also get to choose how to react. In every moment of our lives, God gives us agency over our actions and our words. For years I carried so much worry and guilt because I was constantly attributing other people's actions and words to my own choices, even when they weren’t connected at all. I have to tell you, as a wife, mom, and teacher I have so much more peace when I give people the best of me and then allow them to be and act however they choose.
#2: Stop being a victim.
Awful terrible things happen to everyone. We for sure need healing for those things and God is the most incredible and loving provider of that healing. But, often we refuse to find that healing or allow it to cure us, because we are stuck in the role of a victim. I see this often when people get especially stressed: You might decide you really need a drink because so-and-so said those terrible things to you. Or, there is no way you can enjoy that party because your spouse was being rude. When we live in the victim role we let go of all our power we could have over a situation and instead wallow in what others have said or done. I’ve never seen women be successful in their desire to become healthy or establish life-giving practices when they are living in that victimized state. Psychologists assert time and again that we are at our best when we take responsibility and agency over our present and move forward instead of focusing on the the poor choices of others. You’ll feel this in your prayer life, too. There is a world of difference between crying out to God to fix your child so they will stop being so rude to you and asking God to fill you with His love and healing touch so that you can be the mom who is full of truth and patience.
#3: You are always the one choosing.
Unless someone is physically forcing you to eat something then you are the one choosing to eat that. Just a few moments ago I opened up the jar of peanut butter and downed three scoops. I didn’t have to. Yes, I was hungry and my options aren’t plentiful for soft palatable foods having come back from the dentist with a sore mouth and trying to avoid dairy. But, I wasn’t forced to eat that. In fact, there is something incredibly freeing about saying out loud, “I choose to eat 3 scoops of peanut butter to appease my hunger.” If you’re not owning the choice you might feel either victimized by lack of options or ashamed by supposed lack of self-control. I tell you what, weighing the choices and taking ownership of your decisions is incredibly empowering. Then you won’t be playing the blame game on yourself or anyone else. This practice will help you reduce stress, anxiety, and anger in many situations involving your actions and words, sweet sister.
As we enter into this season of joy and celebration of our Lord, I pray that you find peace in your relationships. I know that having strife among our friends and family is one of the most difficult things to bear no matter what time of the year, but I especially know that it can be heartbreaking during the holidays. I hope these three truths, though they might be difficult to swallow at times, fill you with strength.
Blessing to you, my dear. We’ll talk next week. Good bye for now!
by Lora Armendariz
You Can Do It!
Do you want to fall out of love with a destructive habit? The first 42 episodes of this podcast are a resource for anyone who wants encouragement and information as they take a six week break from a habit in order to fall out of love with it.