You may not be like Gilbert Arenas and his teammate, who foolishly brought guns to work and were dumb enough to pull them out and point them at each other. Or you may not be like Mary J. Blige, who reportedly smacked the flirt out of her husband for cajoling with a waitress at her album release party. But, we all have said something or acted out in the heat of the moment when something upset us, only to deeply regret our actions moments thereafter, actions that often have a long-lasting impact.
For some, it’s natural and easy to act out, but it can take a long time to repair the damage done in a heated moments notice.
Speaking personally, I didn’t grow up in a household where I saw good examples of healthy conflict resolution. In fact, I am a child of domestic violence. My father was physically, verbally and mentally abusive to my Mom – and sometimes to me. I almost did not make it here, except by the grace of God. My uncle stopped my father from punching my mother in the stomach while she was pregnant with me. She also shared with me, based on her training, that most male domestic violators attack women while they are pregnant because they are jealous; they don’t want the babies taking their place.
The experts say that babies can feel every emotion of the mother while in the womb; perhaps that explains why I came out from Day One with the sole determination to be my mother’s savior and protector from all harm. If I were a super-hero, I would be Deya the Deliverer! She comes to the rescue of the wounded woman, the weak and the weary.
I was wound up as a child, living so in fear of the next dramatic and violent episode that I slept with a kitchen knife under my pillow or mattress. Believe me when I tell you that I was willing to fight to the death, and there were a few situations when we came close.
After all, if my dad had killed my mom, who would I have left? She was my mother, my caretaker, my source of strength and support, and I honestly believed that I was all of those things to her. It did not matter that I was only eight, nine or 10 years old.
Gratefully, I have never experienced domestic violence. However, I’m embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until my early 20s that I even understood that having a fight did not have to be physical. One of my coworkers at the time confided in me that she and her boyfriend had a fight. I immediately went on alert: What did he do to you? What do you want me to do? She assured me that she only meant they had an argument, nothing physical was ever considered.
In that moment, I realized in a new way how growing up had impacted my relationships and world view. What we learn as children definitely shapes how we think and approach life. And, although I’ve engaged in relationship counseling in the past and have learned a lot over the years, whenever I feel threatened in any way, my gut reaction is still to come out fighting – not physically, but with that same intensity. Trust me, I am diligently working on the concept of “Think before I speak or do.” How about you?
The good news is that realization is what’s crucial in order to make changes. How we start out is definitely not how we have to continue. The goal should always be to evolve, to learn from the mistakes of our parents, as well as from our own mistakes.
The irony though, is that we often repeat the very cycles that we grow up resenting. I read a report about how, in high school, Tiger Woods cried to his girlfriend about his father’s cheating ways. He just couldn’t understand why his dad would cheat on his mother. Fast forward to recent headlines, and Tiger is repeating similar behavior, if not worse.
The heat of the moment may mean different things for different people, but we could all benefit from investing in tools to help us with relationship-building and conflict resolution. I am a big proponent of therapy, and I highly recommend it, whether it’s with a pastor or a clinical professional. Therapy isn’t designed just for crisis, but it’s designed to check in and be preventive, just like a doctor or dentist appointment. Black folks have to start investing in mental and emotional health. Of course, talking things out with people who you respect and who have your best interest at heart is also crucial.
The first relationship or conflict that needs to be resolved is within ourselves. We must deal with the intrapersonal before we can effectively address interpersonal relationships.
Many people never crossed over into 2010, and already we’ve all heard of people who have lost their lives. Some of no fault of their own, others because they made a deadly decision in the heat of the moment.
Life is indeed precious. This year, before you do, take the time to think, pray, talk it out and ultimately make the decisions that are most healthy for you. Let us not crash and burn in the heat of the moment.
What’s your “in the heat of the moment” story? E-mail me or post your message.
Deya “Direct” Smith is a producer on the Tom Joyner Morning Show and host of Girlfriend FM on BlackAmericaweb.com stream. She can be reached directly at DeyaDirect@aol.com.