General Self-Management

Follow the Trail

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“Will you get off my back!” Trevor yelled at his wife. Kate couldn’t believe this was happening again. 

“He blows up over the smallest thing. All I asked was if he could take out the trash and he gets so angry. Where is this coming from?”

Trevor knew he was in the doghouse. No one needed to remind him. He was out of line again. Taking the trash out he mumbled to himself, “This has got to stop. What is wrong with me?”

A few days later, Trevor reached out to his mentor. “Can we talk? I need some help figuring out why I blow up over the smallest things Kate asks me.”  Nate and Trevor sat down for a long conversation. 

“What’s with me, Nate? Kate asks me to do the littlest thing and I blow up!” Trevor vented.

“Do you blow up at work?” Nate asked. 

“If I do, I keep it to myself. When I get home I explode.”

“Maybe Kate asking you to take out the trash really isn’t the issue. Maybe, just maybe there’s something deeper going on.” Nate surmised.

There’s More Than What You See

Every behavior, good or bad, as well as every emotion, has its roots in the past. From the way your brain is wired to the way you were raised, to the social interactions growing up, impacts how you deal with things going on in your life today.  Nate’s right about Trevor. Kate asking him to take out the trash isn’t the real reason he blows his top. It’s merely a trigger of something in the past.

Nate encouraged Trevor to think back to his growing-up years. “Were there any situations that caused pain that adversely impacted him?”

“Perhaps. Maybe I need to give this some thought.”   Trevor realized Nate might be on to something.

Later that Evening

Trevor sat with pen and paper in hand. He thought back to when he was eight. “Take out the trash” always came with a harsh tone from his dad.  Trevor’s dad was a man of little patience. If he asked you twice, his anger came out in brutal ways. 

“I said to take out the trash, son! Which part did you not understand!” was usually followed by a slap on the face or a kick in the butt. 

Creekside Trauma

Trevor recalled the countless tears taking out the trash. His anger today was traced back to his dad’s harshness towards him as a boy.  The journal page filled up quickly. Trevor recalled a time when he was twelve. His dad reluctantly let him go fishing down at the creek near their house. The neighbor boy, Scott, came along to hook a few. Scott was a good kid but suffered from some physical limitations. He couldn’t walk very well and was not that coordinated. The creek was up and flowing at a brisk rate. Casting out, Scott’s line got snagged on some branches. 

“Be careful!” Trevor yelled from downstream as he saw Scott trying to unsnag his line.

Next thing Trevor knew, Scott lost his footing and fell into the creek, being swept away. He was out of reach, so Trevor quickly ran for help. By the time help came, Scott’s head was caught under a log, face down. It took paramedics what seemed like a long time to resuscitate Scott. Trevor’s dad was furious!

“You stupid, stupid kid! What is wrong with you?!  I knew it was a bad idea to let you go fishing and bring along that runt of a boy. I have half a mind to lock you up and ground you forever!” 

Trevor holed up in his bedroom and cried for hours. Something shifted in Trevor’s attitude toward his dad. “I can never make him happy. Why try anymore?”

Coping with Pain

That was the turning point where Trevor held in a lot of pain and anger. His teenage years were filled with torment and fits of rage; just like his dad. Sure, he could turn on the charm. That’s how he won Kate over and got married. But, now in his twenties and trying to be a husband who loves Jesus, this anger battle was triggered anytime someone spoke ill of him. 

Lie Uncovered

That’s when Trevor connected the dots. His anger over Kate asking him to take out the trash wasn’t about her at all. It was about this lie ingrained in his heart.

“I don’t have what it takes and I never will change.” 

Nate and Trevor

A few weeks later, Trevor and Nate met up to talk through things. 

“I’ve connected the dots and God’s shown me what the problem is,” Trevor said with both humility and hope that things could finally change!

As he unpacked things with Nate, Trevor felt a weight come off his shoulders. 

“I’ve been believing a lie all this time and it came from how my dad spoke to me.”

Nate surmised, “Perhaps, your dad treated you the way he felt about himself, which he couldn’t change either.”   

Thing Changed for the Better

Trevor didn’t change overnight, but every time he heard the “I can’t” mantra start-up, he turned to Christ and his mentor with the words, “I can in Him.” Verses like Galatians 2:20 which talks about Christ living His life through you and passages like Ephesians 4:25-32 on dealing with anger began to saturate his soul.

One day, Kate saw Nate and asked, “What did you do to Trevor?  He’s so different. I can’t think of the last time he got angry. Thank you.”

“No thanks to me,” Nate replied.  “Thank the Lord your husband has a teachable heart and took some deep-seated pain and is allowing the Lord to heal it. I was simply there to walk with him through the journey.”

Every behavior has a string attached. Where do yours lead?  Do what Trevor did and process your past and how it connects to how you are today. Gospel good can happen when we bring it all to the Lord.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of www.Mentoring-Warriors.com. Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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