Manipulation makes me a cow
From reading previous blog entries, I’m sure all are well aware that I do not know how to fight — either with the fist or with the tongue. Actually, I can fight with the tongue, but the good Lord has lent me the virtue of self-control in times where I would be most apt to skewer my opponent with words that can’t be taken back. But this virtue is not fully appreciated in its full form because I do have some responsibility in using said self-control.
I exude wickedness when I am contemptuous, and I’ve truly been trying to work on this flaw through prayer, action and, most of all, avoidance. I avoid conflict. This is new-ish behavior for me because I used to seek it. I had what can only be called destructive abilities, and I figured such talents could only be meant for the obvious. To destroy, crush, defeat and demean. As I am now in my 30s (never mind), it has come to my attention that this volatility not only doesn’t serve me well anymore, but also it never has served me well. I was the bridge burner. Exit with drama. Bite the hand. You get the point.
However, in keeping with the clichés, old habits die hard.
I still wound. For instance, and I will apologize to my reader for the partial story because I honestly don’t recall what this fight was about in the first place, but I had a recent fight with the other half of my heart (my husband) recently. The most astounding word is “recently” because after you hear this, you will think that I must have been married at about age 10 judging from my behavior. None of my arguments would stick. I got the silent treatment. I was set on winning. So set, in fact, that I completely forgot that pretty much anything I did would ensure a lose.
My husband and I do make valiant efforts to avoid fighting in front of the children, and will sometimes have “texting fights” while sitting on the same piece of furniture. These fights are usually pretty minor and end without incident, probably because I wasn’t able to open my mouth. So when my husband got home from work, he sent the teenager with the two younger ones to my least favorite franchise restaurant to order dinner off the dollar menu. He didn’t realize that I had already started thawing dinner.
One of my methods of avoiding conflict is to go on with my daily business until everything blows over. It works. I was going to cook a nice dinner for the object of my frustration so I would be forced to reconcile. Sending the kids away ruined everything. So I took drastic action.
“Well, I guess I shouldn’t bother with dinner then!” I threw 3 pounds of rib eye steak in the trash with more drama and punctuation than necessary while my husband calmly pulled last night’s turkey and salad from the refrigerator for his dinner. Before you express your disgust for my wastefulness, just know that I was fully aware that the trash can was empty and had no intention of wasting meat that normally costs $10 a pound. But he didn’t react. And I still hadn’t eaten.
So I did what any irrational woman would do and grabbed a 1-pound bag of peanut butter M&Ms from the baking cupboard and began eating them, with drama and flair. I became my own pet peeve for that few minutes. When I ran out of M&Ms, I went for a sample pack of chocolates and finally the rib eye steak. I patiently cooked the steak before I sat down in front of my poor husband and said, “Fine! I’m just going to eat, non stop, until I’m so fat you leave. Then I’ll tell everyone you left because I’m a cow!”
He watched me eat but said, “Let me save you some eating, Donna. I’m not going to leave.”
I knew that, but I had lost focus. I reverted to my natural behavior and ignored the supernatural. I was using ineffective manipulation tactics, again, to break someone into giving me my way. It didn’t work. It was over — 4,500 calories later. The next day, I went on a diet, told my best friend what an idiot I was and vowed to do better next time. Repentance, accountability and refocus. These must be the themes in my life because it’s what every carnal experience leads to. The length of the path and route vary tremendously, but boiled down, the theme remains.
Maybe I’ll do better next time. I generally don’t make the same mistake in the same way twice. Furthermore, the closer I become to God, the less often my manipulation tactics work for me. In reading about women in the Bible, I see the common thread of manipulation as a natural tool for almost every one of them. Sarah lost patience with God and used her maidservant too bear her a child. She wound up despising the result of her wiles. I wonder if Delilah sat back with all her money one day and hated herself for what she’d done to Samson.
The point is, even if I get what I want from using manipulation, I never can enjoy it because I know I came by it through a tantrum or divisiveness. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth in the form of guilt, and I don’t want it anymore.
Even though I’m sort of a hipster blogger who refuses to write about things based on the time of the year (for example: on National Houseplant Appreciation Day, I probably won’t even water my plants, let alone write about them), I made a resolution that day. It wasn’t New Year’s, but I resolved to be smaller, to find joy in other people’s joy instead of looking everywhere for my own missing joy. Then I don’t need manipulation. I just need my own heart, to be softer and to make the choice to love and not need.
Prayer through a resolution like this is appreciated because to do this is to have true change. If I come out of this one changed, or victorious, it is only because I did nothing to advance my cause. I didn’t find my joy in a plate of nachos, a triumphant victory in a petty argument or a schedule being precisely followed for any amount of time. I will find it in submission to a plan that is not at all my own but always in opposition to my flesh.