Are You Baking Soda or Gasoline?
My friend’s mother-in-law is borderline crazy. Let’s call her Mrs. Darling. (This really is about a friend, by the way. My mother-in-law is absolutely wonderful!) Mrs. Darling is regularly out of line, shows up to my friend’s house uninvited, and...
My friend’s mother-in-law is borderline crazy. Let’s call her Mrs. Darling. (This really is about a friend, by the way. My mother-in-law is absolutely wonderful!)
Mrs. Darling is regularly out of line, shows up to my friend’s house uninvited, and consistently and condescendingly critiques my friend’s parenting and housekeeping methods.
Recently, after coming to town to help after her son had surgery, Mrs. Darling wrote a blog listing her complaints with the visit. Among other criticisms, she couldn’t believe that they “had a guest at their house and didn’t have her favorite foods on hand.”
And, Mrs. Darling went on to write: “Young women these days need to be educated on how to better take care of their families and households!”
She shared the shaming blog on social media for everyone to see.
My friend was completely justified in being angry with her mother-in-law. Mrs. Darling’s words and behavior were obviously out of line. But as with any conflict—even those when we are right—it’s easy to allow our sense of rightness to dictate our response.
When we feel justified in our anger, we respond in anger. When a family member makes a hateful remark, we shoot back with an equally hateful remark. And when a person yells at us, we yell back. After all, they started it!
And they’re wrong, and we’re right.
But conflict is kind of like a fire. It doesn’t matter who started the conflict or the fire, but how we respond to it affects how much damage is done.
So we have to decide: Are we going to be baking soda or gasoline?
You can be baking soda, which works to put the fire out, or you can be gasoline, which makes the fire rage even larger.
You can respond to anger, yelling and hatefulness with more anger, yelling and hatefulness. This will feel great at the time. But more often than not, it leads to burned bridges and broken relationships.
Or you can address the issue with kindness, steadiness and logic. This takes incredible strength and willpower. And honestly, it doesn’t feel as good as putting someone in his or her place. But you’re diffusing the situation and working toward solving the problem—for you and for them.
Like my friend and her mother-in-law, you’ll have relationships and interactions where the other person is offensive and out of line. You’ll be right and they’ll be wrong. There’s no doubt about it. But once there’s a fire, it doesn’t matter who started it.
All that matters is that the fire gets put out.
You can take the path to being right, or you can take the path to reconciliation.
It’s up to you.