Monday, March 7, 2011

Acid Tongue

Do you struggle mightily with some personal issue that keeps you at a distance from who you want to be? Perhaps the problem seemingly has a stranglehold around your neck and sometimes you feel that you might never gain the upper hand. Maybe for you it is overeating, or dealing with road rage, or watching too much T.V.. For others it could be laziness, or procrastination, or neglect. For me, I have had a long history of struggling with controlling my words in and around colleagues at work. Specifically, I have had a tendency over the years to blurt out hurtful and inconsiderate volleys at and about others. I used to think it was related to impatience. I wanted things done a certain way on a particular timeline. When my expectations were not met, I would slam people for being lazy. I used to think it was about attitude. If I saw that a certain task was not being given the attention I thought it deserved, I would rail on people for lacking passion. I used to think it was about aptitude. If someone fell short of my expectations, I would tear into them for being incompetent.

Over the years I have gained some insight into this issue. My acid tongue had nothing to do with impatience, attitude, or aptitude. It had everything to do with calling attention to myself. It was ego pure and simple. By tearing other people down, I could build myself up. My salvos of verbal munitions were all about making me feel superior to others. It took a long time to understand what I was doing and why, and it has taken an even longer time to gain some measure of control over what I think and what I say to others. From time to time I still catch myself talking trash about someone else. These episodes can really discourage me and make me feel powerless to affect lasting change in myself.

It is so easy to think that we can never change. Sometimes when we try to improve our attitudes and reprogram our way of thinking, our efforts can seem futile, especially when our progress is slow and uneven. Recently though, my spirits were buoyed a bit by a colleague that I have known for more than 20 years. We see each other only a few times each year. After a conversation the other day, he said to me that my attitudes regarding others were markedly improved from what he remembered years ago. I smiled to myself, realizing that he was observing me from a vantage point that I could not reach myself. It made me appreciate how far I have come in this struggle. Perhaps you are further along in dealing with your issue than you give yourself credit for as well.