Episode 18: Pause

Ever hit the send button too soon?

One of the worst feelings I know is hitting the send button on an email that you wrote in the heat of anger, and 30 seconds later thinking: “Did I just do the right thing?” Within the hour it is painfully obvious that you didn’t: do the right thing, that is.

I have done that too many times to count. I let anger get the better of me – and even when the anger is righteous and important and necessary and justified and explicable: I have learned that I serve myself, others, and outcomes better by letting the anger dissipate before I write something that I can’t ever take back.

Because of that, I have a trusted circle of friends who know me, and who have never hesitated to tell me the truth. I use them all the time to filter my words through a lens of tact and decorum. I let them vet and process my writings before I send them out to make sure that I don’t do damage to a relationship that matters.

Even when, as I say, the anger is appropriate and justifiable, there are always two things that I want to protect and preserve – and which will always be jeopardized when all I have done in the end is say something that makes me feel better. Those two things are the relationship and the outcome.

Words do damage when not chosen well. They hurt. They deride. They cut. The pen is often mightier than the sword; and in the wrong hands words are weapons that tear apart relationships that we invest in and need. I can think of few words that are worth stringing together when doing so ruins a relationship with some that I care about.

When someone angers me and I respond, in the end what I hope for is new insight and understanding that leads to a restored relationship, open and transparent communication, and new insight. Just venting to release the pressure valve that boiled over with my anger isn’t the best pathway to those outcome. There are ways to express myself that leave open a greater possibility for a dialogue that may make reconciliation possible.

What matters for me in these moments is the pause: the time between the writing and the sending when a quick prayer, a moment for clarity of thought and intention, and an opportunity to assess one last time whose needs are being met can slow me down. That pause has saved me much  pain and grief. Now, rather than send it to the one who generated my anger, I send it to a few friends who read and tell me not to do it.

I don’t expect my life to be free of frustration, or that anger won’t bubble up from time to time. I know better than that.

I also know that I can control not so much the anger but what I choose to do with it. Writing something I know I won’t send calms me down. Letting someone else read it helps me validate the anger – or affords me the opportunity to hear I have overreacted.

Using that to process the anger helps keep me balanced, makes me a more effective agent for change and transformation, and lets me hold on longer to relationships that matter.

I am grateful to a spiritual director that helped me figure this out. I am grateful to close friends with whom I can entrust my inner thoughts and feelings. I am grateful for learning to pause along the way in order to preserve things that are important to me.

This pathway we travel won’t be free from moments of profound loss and disappointment. My prayer is that we teach ourselves to respond and react to those disappointments with grace a aplomb. Along with the anger that will surface, may you find the time to pause between the time of your writing and the time of your sending. May this bring you peace on your journeys Into the Mystic.