When my book first came out and my friends and family members read it, a frequent observation was, “Wow, you really put a lot of personal stuff in there. Has Chief read it?”
Are you kidding?! Of course Chief read it! He went through it with a fine-tooth comb. And he gave me feedback – some of which was hard to hear but essential for its excellence. When co-workers questioned him as well, he replied, “If it helps others with their marriages, I’m completely willing to talk about our difficulties.”
My aunt was the first one to really nail my reason for this. She wrote, “I was a bit surprised that you were so open and personal about your experiences, but that’s what makes it so compelling. It should be required reading for a lot of young couples, not just law enforcement pairs. It even speaks deeply to old long-time married folks like us, forcing one to really examine our relationships with our spouses…”
If you read last week’s blog, you know that I continue to share the good, the bad, and the ugly for the sake of sharing the lessons I learn in life with you. Knowing that we are more alike than different in our thoughts and actions connects us. I know I’m not all that – and you know you’re not all that. Authenticity brings relief.
And what does this have to do with how we love our cops? Everything.
Somewhere in the course of our culture’s “evolving” relational intelligence, we’ve downplayed the idea that our actions (both good and bad) have significant impact on those we are close to. There are no real consequences, it’s my business. These are MY choices – they have nothing to do with you. But really – do your choices affect your spouse? Your kids? The neighbor? The taxpayer? If I choose to eat a donut, who’s business is it but mine? Well, let’s see. Donuts pad on weight, which I want to lose. A choice to screw it all and devour empty carbs will inadvertently tack on guilt (right there on the thighs – where it’s virtually impossible to lose!). And that guilt manifests itself, eventually, into irritation. Irritability leads to sensitivity. Sensitivity leads to insecurity. Insecurity leads to misunderstanding. And misunderstanding results in conflict. With the others who are close to you. Every choice – negative and positive has its effect on others whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.
We also think that admitting our shortcomings will have a negative effect on our self-esteems and the respect others have for us. I’ve got news for you – those you live with already know that you aren’t perfect. It’s like the idea that we can’t tell God we’re angry – He already KNOWS! And understanding and acknowledging the stupid things we do not only help with the authenticity of our relationships, but those who are willing to apologize and/or change, are very much respected.
When we admit our shortcomings, we take away their power over us. Rather than expend the energy to hide, deflect, and lie about the things we don’t do well, or the wrong things we say, the mistakes we make, or whatever the case may be, we can use the energy to come clean. It’s much less exhausting to be authentic than to put up a front.
And here’s an added bonus. When we give ourselves freedom to make peace with our weaknesses, we’re much more willing to forgive others their shortcomings. Suddenly there is a willingness to come closer and connect because there is permission to fail – I can be who I am – good, bad, ugly – if there is mercy, forgiveness and restoration.
(Disclaimer – This doesn’t extend to abuse, and it doesn’t give license to chronic bad behaviors. Although, admitting a problem is the first step to restoration in such cases.)
So what am I saying? I’m sayin’ let’s keep it real with each other, people. We’re all in this together.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" July 31st, 2012
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It was the final inning of the game and we were down by 2 runs. It was a hard fought battle – they were hitters, and the umpire seemed to be against us. We had two boys on base, and our “manchild” was up – he could hit homeruns into the next county. We were wound tight – this is it! And the pitch – high and inside – grazed the hand of our player leaving a cut and bruise. He winced, and started for first base. The umpire yells, “Where you goin’?!” and our guy replied, “It hit me.”
“No, son, it hit the bat. That’s a foul ball.” replied the ump. We came unglued. Chief comes out of the dugout to protest. Our side erupts in shouts. The umpire refuses to budge. “I heard it hit the bat,” he argues. He refuses to even look at the player’s hand. And all of a sudden – I couldn’t see. The Inner Grizzly emerged with a gutteral cry that came from where last Friday’s dinner was being digested. “HE HIT HIS HAND! HE HIT HIS HAND! HE HIT HIS HAND!”
The field was a blur, but I could still hear. And what I heard was, “Shut up and sit down before you get us tossed!” I whirled around and don’t remember what came from my mouth, but lost all control. She came back with another verbal blow to the gut. A sheet of red hot anger flashed before my eyes, when my girls intervened and I slowly sat down. And then, “You got somethin’ to say to me?! BRING IT!” Another wave of wrath shook me and I could feel my fists tighten. From the left I heard, “MOM! BETTER PERSON!” and it brought me back. I closed my mouth, shaking. At that point, I knew both the argument and the game were over. But the guilt started in…
How could a forty-something cop wife who had raised four kids, who’d written a book that talks about gratitude, patience, and self-control, just about come to blows at the call of an ump? I know better… I haven’t been like this since high school… I thought being a woman of faith and prayer was above this ghetto-like temptation? I’ve embarrassed my kids… I’m a fool… And on and on.
Have you been there?
Anger is a sleeping lion, crouching just beneath the surface, ready to devour those who dare to deny it’s existence. Just when we think we could never go there, we find ourselves wrapped in shame, picking up shell casings left by the verbal shootout. We must understand where the anger comes from, and what triggers it.
My triggers were fear, a sense of injustice, and then unkindness. I saw my boys’ hope of winning sectionals slipping through the fingers of the man in blue – fear. And then I witnessed Chief in a rare moment of strong protest and I felt like the umpire had truly been paid by the other team – injustice. And the final insult – unkindness. I wanted to rewind time. I wanted what my boys wanted. I wanted…
What are your triggers? What really makes you mad? We have to look at it, ugly as it is, and define it. Prepare for it. And if anger rares its ugly head, we must deal with its damage.
That night I apologized to my family. I laid justification aside and realized my anger got the best of me. I allowed myself to feel the embarrassment. For a time. But then, when the other mom reached out to me about the incident, I forgave her, apologized for my actions, and now feel at peace. We’re ready to move beyond the carnage, choosing to get along for the sake of our families and friends.
There will always be arguments in our lives. With our spouses, with our kids, our in-laws – the list goes on. Anger is an unfortunate reality, but it also shows we care deeply.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" July 18th, 2012
Posted In: Uncategorized
Last night the Chief and I stumbled upon a show called The Great Escape. There were three teams that had to escape several levels of what they called a “labyrinth.” There were two couples and a team of brothers. While we watched with intrigue as they repelled out windows, evaded guards, hid in laundry trucks and searched for keys, there was a phenomenon that was growing old – quick.
The two women couldn’t keep their mouths shut.
As their husbands tried desperately to work under pressure, using their strength, brains and bravery and then helping their wives along, the two had one thing in common: they relentlessly nagged them every step of the way.
“The other teams are coming!”
“Why can’t you cut faster?!”
“What!? You just gonna leave me here?!”
“I told you they were coming…”
Nag, nag, nag. And it was ugly.
One husband just ignored his wife. The other shut down, at one point saying in response, “You’re not helping!” That couple had the lead, and ended up stuck at a level the rest of the game. They came in last.
It doesn’t take much to cut down, undermine, irritate, and simply drive our husbands to ignore us. We can render them inoperable with a few short syllables.
But it does take courage, self-control, and inner strength to build up.
I had a friend who’s mother didn’t have a positive word to say to anyone. Eventually others tuned her out and discarded her in their minds and attitudes – they just couldn’t take the negativity. Yet she was a beautiful and gifted lady who could throw a party you wouldn’t believe. She sang and played the piano amazingly. She had wonderful organizational skills. But when she died of bone cancer at a young age, her family struggled to remember positive stories of her life. Nothing funny, nothing good – only that at last she was at rest after such a horrible disease. They were relieved she was gone. What a shame.
When I think of her, I think of one word – unforgiveness. She had been hurt in her younger years and never got over it, never healed, never walked away free. Instead she built walls of protection around her, locking in fear with her. And it marred her family, her character, and ultimately overshadowed her best qualities.
The Great Escape was a good lesson for me to remember that my words can either hurt or heal. My words can tear down or build up. My words can render me pleasant to be around or drive others to be relieved that I’m gone. This week I will strive to keep it positive. Want to join me?
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" July 9th, 2012
Posted In: Uncategorized