“Why did I suddenly lash out?” you find yourself asking. You’ve just walked away from a conversation you would rather not remember, with a loved one you would rather not forgive right now.
Most people have been in this situation. Even people who love each other can get into arguments sometimes.
You remember it all vividly, painfully. All of a sudden, years of bottled-up resentment rose to the surface and gushed out everywhere like foam from a can of ginger ale. Painful memories, emotional wounds that you carry, that you hold against them, were expressed in so many words. You remembered some ugly name they called you, some past misdemeanor. It may have taken only one piece of good-natured criticism from them to pull your trigger, to remind you of all the times they criticized you in the past.
Before you realized what you were saying, you began using harsh words, words that seemed to come out of nowhere, that had nothing to do with the conversation. Words that stung like barbs, words intended to hurt. Words that you can’t just take back.
And taking it out on the other person didn’t even make you feel better. Maybe there was a brief high, but then nothing but hollow triumph. Days later, you are still thinking about how you stormed out of the room. Nothing will wash that bad taste out of your mouth. Nothing will resolve that tangle of emotions.
Except, of course, saying you’re sorry.
However, you may have done this far more times than you can count. Said something you didn’t mean, sulked for a few days, then come back later to say you’re sorry. It’s become a cycle, a way to cop out of responsibility. You’ve used the word “sorry” so often, it has become empty for you, a verbal spare key to be let back into the relationship. You realize that you’ve learned nothing, but gained an expectation that the other person will always, always forgive you, no matter what.
And perhaps they will. But there’s always an alternative to hurting someone else in the process of sorting out painful emotions. In each moment, before the outpouring of unintended anger strikes, there is a golden opportunity to not have to then say you’re sorry, by choosing your words with care in the first place. There are chances to address the problems honestly with them and resolve your anger before it dominates you.
How do you do this? I’d say by practicing a lifestyle of putting others first; knowing that, no matter how you feel inside yourself, there are other human beings around you who are just as fragile, and deserve love. And, by being honest and open, giving your heart to another person rather than keeping it to yourself. This is a gift for both of you: as a way for them to understand you more deeply, and a way for you to unload your own heart. With time and repetition, they will stop feeling as though they are navigating an emotional minefield. They will feel more comfortable opening up to you, being vulnerable instead of shielded, because you have invited them into your life and soul.
All of us make mistakes, and there is no way to keep ourselves from making them. But to be constantly trying our best, to be careful with our words and aware of our own power to shape each moment, is one simple way to show our love.