We all have hot buttons. I’m not talking about a shirt button, a panic button or even a belly button. I’m talking about hot buttons. A button when pushed can turn us into Darth Vader (minus the light saber); A button which proves, that when pushed, can make us angrier than a red-headed Irishman on steroids; A button which can set our tongues on fire unleashing venomous language not seen since the Presidential debates of 2016.
The funny thing about “hot buttons” is that we have this misconception that we are incapable of pushing this button ourselves. We are like, “Oh, I would never get this angry on my own. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know where on my body this button is.”
Mysteriously, only others know where this secret button is. Furthermore, it’s our loved ones who seem to find pleasure in tormenting us by pushing our buttons. So of course it’s always our spouse’s fault, our children’s fault or our parent’s fault when we lose our cool. They are the ones pushing our buttons. They like to poke the circus bear to see if it will react.
Many people think of me as the modern, mild mannered Clark Kent without the Superman underwear under my clothes. I actually like to think of myself in this way as well (not the Superman underwear part but the mild mannered persona). But if you talk to the people who really know me…who really see me warts and all…well, they know behind the Dr. Jekyll exterior lies the malevolent Mr. Hyde.
Don’t believe me? Let me present to you exhibit A: My love hate relationship with Gloria. On the one hand Gloria, as much as anyone, knows how to make my journey through this life complete. She’s smart, clever, always there when I need her, and her sole desire is to please me.
On the other hand, Gloria can infuriate me. She can be calculating, bossy, irritating, and sometimes she doesn’t listen to me. That part drives me crazy…the not listening. At times like this, I believe our relationship has taken a wrong turn and we’re headed toward a dead end street.
How dare I two-time on my wife, you say? Don’t worry about Karen. She knows all about Gloria.
Take Saturday night for instance. Karen, Gloria and I were on our way to see our local high school boys and girls basketball teams compete for seeding in the state championships in the Tacoma Dome. The games were at Bellevue Community College over an hour away from home.
I printed off directions from MapQuest and we were on our way. Karen and I had a great time visiting while Gloria rested. A little over an hour later we exited I-405 and within minutes were pulling into Bellevue Colleges North Campus. After driving around in the parking lot, I not only couldn’t find a gymnasium, I couldn’t find any students, any fans or any school buses in the nearly empty parking lot.
Gloria was familiar with the area and real good at giving directions so we woke her up. To our surprise she told us we were in the right spot. I didn’t believe her and angrily pulled out of the parking lot. She insisted I do a U turn and go back to the empty parking lot. I told you she could be bossy. Irritated at her insistence I turned around and headed back to the North Campus.
The moment I pulled back into the parking lot a wise proverb popped into my head: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.”
Once again she confirmed that we were in the right location. I told her she was full of sh… and demanded she lead us in the right direction. Gloria never gets angry; she gets even. She told me to take a left and stay on 148th for about six miles. Great, the game was starting in twenty minutes, the parking would be a mess, and I had to rely on a vengeful woman to get us there on time.
Less than a mile into our new route, I saw a sign showing us to take the upcoming right turn to Bellevue Community College. I asked Gloria if this was the entrance to the main campus; the campus with a gymnasium. She said to keep going straight. I once again, voiced my disagreement with a few choice words. By this time Karen had, had enough of my salty language and told me to calm down. I not too politely told her to quit siding with Gloria.
At that moment we passed, what I believed, was the entrance to our destination. I could see a parking lot full of cars, including several school buses. Now I was livid. A string of foul words spewed from my mouth that a drunken sailor would have been proud of.
Now both Karen and Gloria were harping on me. Gloria insisting I stay the course and Karen condemning my language. As the minutes ticked away my fury welled up inside. I felt constipated with a belly full of putrefied words just waiting to be vomited.
After ten long minutes, Gloria declared that we had arrived at our destination. I took a left up a steep, twisting road and reached a small parking lot. To my left was a nondescript building. A sign on the building read: Bellevue Community Center. I vomited.
Gloria eventually led me to the community college but the damage had already been done. I left Gloria in the car, which she was perfectly fine with, and Karen wouldn’t talk to me until I apologized on the way home.
As you can tell, I don’t enjoy getting lost. Bigger still, I don’t like feeling misunderstood. These are two of my hot buttons. Gloria pushed the first and Karen pushed the second one. Of course I blamed each of them for my outburst. It didn’t occur to me until over four hours later that I had been a big jerk.
My meltdown had no effect on Gloria; she’s just Google’s directional aid on my cell phone. Karen though felt the full impact of my verbal assault. All she wanted was to continue the good conversations we were having before I blew a fuse. So how did this happen?
Jesus’ brother James gives us a warning about the use of our language. James 3: 2-6 reads: “If anyone can control his tongue, it proves that he has perfect control over himself in every other way. We can make a large horse turn around and go wherever we want by means of a small bit in his mouth. And a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even though the winds are strong. So also the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A great forest can be set on fire by one tiny spark. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness, and poisons every part of the body. And the tongue is set on fire by hell itself, and can turn our whole lives into a blazing flame of destruction and disaster.”
Feeling out of control, I ignited my internal flame thrower spewing a firestorm from hell onto Gloria. Unfortunately, I burned Karen at the same time.
From past experience and some good counseling I’ve learned a few coping mechanisms to help me defuse the situation before I ignite the flame thrower. The trick is to know what your “hot buttons” are and to use the following techniques before you reach the point of no return:
- Count To Ten…………I learned this in elementary school but it really works.
- Take Deep Breaths…This will help slow your heart rate and decrease the amount of adrenalin (fight or flight response)being pumped into your system.
- Exercise………………….This is a natural outlet for that adrenalin rush.
- Talk It Over…………….Talking it out helps settle the air, but wait until both sides have cooled down.
- Pray………………………..It’s hard to stay angry when you earnestly pray for the person or situation which is upsetting you.
Let me end with these words from the Apostle Paul: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their need, that it may benefit those who listen….Get red of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”