It’s something I hear me say often… much too often for my taste. Kid start snipping at each other, have an ugly face when I tell them to do something– they’ll hear it. “Change your attitude.” That’s usually all they need to at least attempt to show a better attitude. Well, that’s fine and good, but what about me?
Yeah. Me. Something happened the other day. I was in my room making cards when Lorna came in. It’s important to note that I was in a perfectly fine mood. All was well, nothing bothering me. Lorna asks in a happy little voice, “May I have a drink of your Coke?”
In the space of a second or two a bunch of thoughts went through my mind. My first response wasn’t pretty. I heard myself think, as I was about to say it, “Fine…” in a heavy sighing voice. Even as I was thinking that and opening my mouth, another thought crashed in on top of it. “Why can’t I just be pleasant? She didn’t say anything or do anything wrong. If I’m going to say yes, why can’t it be a happy yes?”
I said, “Sure!” Total happy tone. I meant it by then.
She took a sip, said thanks, and asked about my card. It lasted maybe six seconds but it left an impact on me that I hope doesn’t fade anytime soon. That one decision to respond with a happy sound made me happy. The right action prompted the right attitude, but even if it hadn’t, my daughter didn’t get a guilt trip for asking an innocent question. No, I would have been giving her the answer she wanted, but at what price? Who can enjoy “getting their way” if it’s loaded with a heaviness like that?
I was thinking about the reverse. Let’s say I was going to say no. Would I have said a simple, “No” or “No, not this time” with a pleasant tone, or would I have sounded impatient? I don’t know. That’s the problem. I should know. I should know that if I’m NOT irritated, I’m not going to sound like I am. I should know that if I am irritated, I probably will manage to have the self-control not to let it control my reaction.
I guess I don’t understand why we do this? I know I’m not the only one. I hear it from all of my family, friends, their families, online, in stores, at church… it happens too often. Why is it so easy to make a yes sound like a burden or a no sound like a rebuke– even when we have no intention of doing either.
What surprised me most was the way my attitude changed when I changed my sound. I was pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. Didn’t care if she had a drink or not. It sickens me to think of how easy it was for me to go from “ho-hum” to “sighville” in the space of a second. What amazes me is how quickly my heart was changed with my words and tone. While I didn’t mind Lorna in the room with me before that, afterwards, I wanted her around– enjoyed “playing” with her.
What I hate about realizing this is that I usually have the thought that I should work on it in the future. Stop myself. Take that thought captive. Change my own attitude. Use the proper response. And yet, I don’t. It seems as if I notice something like this and purpose to make that change in my life, I’m worse than ever. Well, this time I’m determined to pray myself through a change. Somehow, some way, I pray that when I start to say, “all riiiight…” for no reason… I’ll stop myself first and say, “Sure!” When I have to say no, I’ll be matter-of-fact rather than letting it come out smug or rebuke-like. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t intentionally do these things– sometimes I don’t do it at all. However, my reaction to my instinctive response tells me that I need the Lord to work a change in my heart.
So tell me, why do we do this? Why do we sound affronted when we’re ambivalent? Why do we sound rebuking when we are simply saying no? If we’d never allow our children to whine at us, why do we whine about having to do the things that come with parenthood?