The unworthy thoughts we are working on today have to do with the ones you are delegating to others.
Hang out with any child – from an infant to a toddler to a teen, and you will note a few common characteristics popping up over time.
Children are quick to react to what other people say. They can burst into tears because you hurt their feelings. They can scream and shout because you made them mad. They can throw a tantrum because you didn’t do what they wanted. They can transition from happy and content to angry and hostile in two seconds flat.
This type of behavior is the norm amongst youth. Completely unstable, unreliable, and emotionally volatile. Why? Because children do not have fully formed brains. They are not fully in control of their emotional maturity and ability to process and control their thoughts.
But now pause with me for a moment, and think of an adult – someone over age 18 – who tends to act the same way. Most of us can clearly think of an adult who flies off the handle easily in response to what other people say. An adult who is emotionally manipulative and throws tantrums – whether screaming and shouting or the silent treatment – because you don’t behave the way they want.
Maybe just maybe, that emotionally immature adult is sometimes YOU.
Let’s be honest here, sometimes it is. Sometimes it is me too.
I know there are times when I have used the silent treatment as my way to pout. I have twisted my words to manipulate someone into behaving the way I want. And I have most defiantly voiced a defiant complaint when something didn’t go my way.
And despite my behavior, rarely ever did these reactions yield the result I was hoping for. Pouting is just as ineffective as an adult as it is as a child. So is whining to get my way.
So why do we do it? Why do we continue to act like children with our emotions?
Often times we act out immaturely because we have failed to ever learn healthy principles for managing our thoughts and our emotions. We were often brought up believing that other people are responsible for our feelings. Think back to being a child or maybe watching your own children and have you ever heard someone say, “Susie, don’t say that. You hurt Jill’s feelings.” Or “Oh, Jill, did she hurt your feelings?”
The way we pose the questions implies that an external force – someone else in this example – is responsible for how we feel. From the very foundation of our life, we begin to think that someone else has the ability to hurt our feelings. That’s why we all chant on the playground, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Because we think that words can hurt us. We try to put on a tough exterior to block the pain when in reality it would be awesome if someone had taught us how to take control of our thoughts.
Because our thoughts about what someone says, what someone does, etc. is what really creates our feelings.
Go back to the playground example.
- Kid #1 says something.
- Kid #2 cries. This kid found the message mean and hurtful.
- Kid #3 screams at the bully. This kid was offended and angry.
- Kid #4 laughs. This kid finds the taunt amusing.
- Kid #5 shrugs it off and walks away. This kid finds it a nuisance.
They all heard the exact same words. But each child had their own interpretation of the words based on how they each thought about it.
Our thoughts control our emotions. Whether we acknowledge it or not.
The sad thing is most of us are living our lives, completely out of control with our thoughts.
We let our thoughts run wild, reacting to the first thing that pops in our head, feeling that someone else has the ability to make us feel a certain way. As if we have no say over how we react and what we feel.
By not learning how to control our own thoughts and regulate our own emotions, we end up relinquishing control to others and becoming victim to their thoughts. Yikes!
I once saw this sign outside a church that said, “When you get angry at someone for something they said or did, you are giving them power over you.”
I read that sign and immediately thought of a strained relationship in my life and how much I despised that person. Then I thought, “I don’t want that person to have any power in my life. They don’t deserve that.”
And just like that, I let go of feeling frustrated. Why? Because I changed my thought about the situation. I realized that person did not deserve to leave this negative impact on my life. I didn’t want them to have that power and I mentally took back my own power for how I wanted to feel.
To this day when I have to encounter this person, I don’t react to the things they say like I once did – taking offense and getting my feelings hurt. Now I think things like, “that was so ridiculous what they said.” And I just shrug it off, because I don’t let their mindless comments mean anything to me. I don’t give them any value in my life.
Because despite our best efforts, some people are just negative, just hurtful, just emotionally immature, and us trying to change them, trying to make them be something they are not, is not going to work. They will resist and we will feel horrible.
Our best course of action is to fix our own thoughts on finding happiness, contentment, satisfaction, in ourselves and our thoughts, just releasing this person and moving on. You can decide in your mind to not get upset over what someone says or how they react to you and instead leave it to God to deal with that person. You can then deal with yourself and become accountable for your own behaviors and responses. After all, that is all you have control over.
Ephesians 4:29 speaks to how you should respond. ”Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
As we close today’s conversation, I’ve got a homework assignment for you. I’ve created a simple handout with a few prompts to help you reflect on ways you may be reacting or behaving with emotional immaturity. If you are up for it, and I hope you are, take the time to reflect on these questions. Consider ways in which you are causing yourself distress, pain, or turmoil by giving up your power to someone else.
Just taking the time to acknowledge where and how this could be happening is the first step toward taking back your power and finding more satisfaction in your life.
Just visit unworthythougths.com/immaturity to download your resource guide for this exercise.