A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
A NOTE From The Editor: Thanks for a true masterpiece, Joseph. Your honesty and sincerity in this column really touched my heart and I know it will touch our readers, too. And to our PNNers, please allow the words of this article to reach you. Its message is powerful. And so is each of ours - in ways we may not be aware of.
REACTIONS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE
A friend of mine-we'll call him Bill-has a problem.
Don't get me wrong-he's a good guy. Dedicated family man. Hard worker. Devoted son. Faithful church-goer. Swell dancer. And he has voted in every election since Watergate.
But he . . . well . . . he explodes.
Not often. And not abusively-at least, not toward living creatures.
When he is angry he lashes out at desks, walls and automobile dashboards. He's a flat, smooth surface abuser.
Except windows. He doesn't do windows.
Bill has what my Mom used to call a long, slow fuse. He is calm and mellow almost to a fault. It takes a lot to get him angry. He almost never gets mad at people. But when an inanimate object-you know, computers, cars, microwave ovens, teenagers-doesn't work as it should, he gets frustrated. When it doesn't work as it should over and over again, he gets angry.
And he explodes. He rages. He bellows. Then, 15 minutes later, it's over. His hand may be a little sore from whatever flat, smooth object he smacked. But other than that, he's fine.
The question is, how are the people around him?
Take the other night, for example. He was working on his computer-again-because his hard drive had crashed. Again. He had just reinstalled all of his software, and was moving files and information from his back-up disks to his hard drive when-you guessed it-the computer crashed. Again.
That did it. That pushed good old Bill right over the edge. He slammed his fist on the desk and stormed around the house, muttering enraged oaths and questioning the intellectual ancestry of everyone from Bill Gates to the clerk who sold him the computer. He didn't really notice the fear in his children's eyes as he raged about. After all, he wasn't mad at them.
But the fear was there. His wife noticed, just as she noticed the impact of his little outburst on the feeling and attitude of their home. Having lived with Bill for a couple of decades, she knew she had nothing to fear from him. So she waited until the storm in his soul had passed, and then she gently spoke to him about it.
"There's no reason for them to be afraid," Bill said defensively, after she told him about the look she had seen in their children's eyes. "I would never hurt them. Not in a million years."
"I know that, and you know that," his wife said. "But when they hear your angry voice, and they see you pounding on things, what are they supposed to think?"
"That I'm mad?" Bill suggested. "Hey, everyone gets mad sometimes."
"But it isn't just mad," his wife countered. "It's out of control. And nobody can feel very safe when someone around them is out of control- no matter how much they love them."
Bill didn't like hearing that. He's a good dad. He hated to think that his children would ever fear him in any way. "It isn't directed at them," he offered, weakly.
"But it affects them," his wife explained. "It affects all of us."
Sometimes we think our choices only impact us. We don't realize how often our choices impact others-especially those who are nearest and dearest to us. We can't control the problems that will crop up in our lives, but we can certainly control our reaction to them, and those reactions can make a huge difference to those around us.
And what is the proper reaction to a crashed computer? I'm not sure, but I'll figure it out.
Er . . . oops! . . . I mean, my friend Bill will.
# # #
--- © Joseph Walker
Look for Joe's book,"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.