Growing up, my parents emphasized values such as honoring God, respecting adults, and telling the truth. Going to church on Sunday morning was never an option. Instead, we always went. Respectful behavior was also continually stressed and disrespect for either Mom or Dad was quickly and swiftly punished. Being truthful was most important to dad and if we said, “I don’t know,” his wrath was instant. He never could tolerate those three words. To him, saying that you didn’t know was the same as lying.
Telling a Lie
Unlike my dad who could not tolerate hearing “I don’t know,” I believe it is sometimes a legitimate and honest statement. Consequently, while raising my sons, when they said they did not know, I’d believe them. But lying was all together different. It was by far the worst offense any of my sons could commit. When they lied, my anger was much more severe than what the offense logically called for. Eventually, I understood why.
I equated my dad’s suicide with a lie. Part of processing his death involved sifting through what felt like hypocrisy. Though Dad said he loved me, he left me. In my elementary thinking, his words equated a lie.
Until I connected those dots, anyone’s lie seemed a mortal issue, a direct threat to my security. Lying was linked to the same feelings I’d experienced with my father’s suicide. I felt the same level of emotional intensity as I did when my Dad had died.
Even if the lie was minor I could not disengage from how I felt. I’d seethe with rage, my heart would accelerate and I’d lose all logic. Anger pulsated through every cell in my body. I remembered how I’d trusted my dad with childlike faith and then, he left me as though I’d never mattered to him.
Finding our emotional trigger points is not complicated, but it is not easy either. It is a matter of noticing our patterns, having honest conversations with ourselves and being willing to alter our behavior when we see we need to.
It was my oldest son who was the catalyst in my life. In his teenage years, I aimed my anger at him. I justified my behavior because of his continuous dishonesty. But my rage was ugly, demeaning and destructive. It scared me.
Over time and many conversations with a friend, my husband and God, it finally dawned on me that the anger I’d been aiming at my son was really the anger I had stowed away toward my dad.. After a few more honest talks with God, I reached the conclusion that forgiving my dad would dissolve the anger and it did, over time.
I still hate it when someone lies to me, by now I know that it is not a life and death offense. It’s just an offense.
Why bother knowing your trigger points? When we know what sets us off, we have more power not to be set off.