Thursday, September 25, 2014

what to do with hate mail

Hate mail.
I received my fair share last week...but it wasn't in my mailbox or my inbox.

A friend and I joked recently that when we were kids we used our journals to pour out our anger towards our parents.  She said that some days she would just take a pen and write over and over on a page...
I hate my mom!

My kids are too young to journal yet, so instead of the hate being recorded on hidden pages, their words fly out of their mouths and land right in front of me.  Face-to-face, screaming, yelling words framed with dark squinted eyes and wrinkled brows and tight fists and stomping feet.

It's hard for me to share that with you.
It's hard for me to paint the very real picture of my 6 year old {and occasionally my imitating 4 year old} hurling insults and viciousness at me...their mother.
That's not the picture I typically share on Instagram or Facebook, but on some days, at certain times...that is the picture of my home.

It's a hard truth to admit because I know that it reflects me to you in a way that I do not wish to be reflected.
It reflects my family to you in a way that I do not wish them to be reflected.
And most importantly, it reflects within the walls of our home an atmosphere that does not breathe life but instead feels more like suffocation.

I wish my children didn't yell and scream and throw things.
I wish the words I whisper over and over, day after day, would become the constant in our home -
kind and calm
kind and calm
kind and calm

Sometimes wishes come true.
Sometimes they don't.
And sometimes...they just take some time and effort.

Parenting takes time and effort...a lot of effort for me actually.

Marriage comes easy.  My marriage isn't perfect but it comes easier than parenting for me.
Relationships with friends and other family members comes easy...not perfect but easier.
Parenting is just plain hard for me right now.

Me - someone with a graduate degree in child psychology,
someone who has counseled other parents for years,
someone who just months ago stood on a stage at a parenting conference offering wisdom and encouragement.
It's almost comical {but not really because I tend to cry more than laugh about it}.

Today I can honestly say that parenting is the most challenging thing on my to-do list.
It is also one of the roles I cherish most.

At some time or another we all have to fight to keep the most precious treasures in our lives.
Right now I'm fighting for my relationship with my children.

But sometimes the fighting for looks more like fighting with.
And that is what I am ashamed of...that is what often leaves me feeling like a complete failure.

What do you do with your hate mail?
I have a tendency to read it...
and re-read it.
And if that isn't bad enough I carry it around in my back pocket as a reminder.
Before long I have it memorized and it plays over and over in my head like a horror story script for my life.

Your hate mail might look like a real life letter from a hurt friend deposited in your mailbox
or a harsh email from a disgruntled co-worker
or the sour expression on your two year old's face
or the sour words from your teenagers mouth
or the cutting remarks from your wounded spouse
or it might be a message that you've written yourself...we can't be our worst critics, can't we?

Whatever kind of hate mail you might receive today, may I suggest one way to handle it?

     Write a love letter instead.

You can speak it, write it, sing it, dance it, paint it, pray it...but however you choose to create your love letter be sure to do it quickly...without delay.

If love is not the immediate response to hate, hate is quick to move in and stay for a while...maybe even forever.  And then all the words we try to speak, all the songs we try to sing, all the letters we try to write, all the prayers we try to pray are clouded with anger and bitterness and shame and fear.

But perfect love casts that all out.

Not angry responses,
dirty looks,
passive aggressive behavior,
swallowing down shame...
none of that works...only perfect love.

So I dig deep not for my love but for that love.

And on my good days when the harsh words are hurled I breathe deep and exhale a holy love.  Because
     love is not sourced from the atmosphere of the room but from the attitude of my heart.

I stoop down low.
I consciously soften my face and my words.
I speak kind truth...sometimes firmly but always lovingly.
On my good days I do this.
Even if the storm around me continues, the storm within me subsides and eventually the condition in the room is transformed by the condition in my heart {instead of the other way around}.

I find the grace-filled evidence in tight hugs, repentant eyes, and sometimes their own carefully crafted letters left on my pillow at night...
Huey Lewis was serious when he said
the power of love is a curious thing.
It really can
make one man weep and another man sing.
Yep - it's changed my hard heart into a soft
little white dove.
And you better believe
it's more than a feeling...
that's the power of love.

Can I get an 'amen'?