“Quit yelling at me!”
I was frustrated. Pressed for time. Trying to get Molly out of the door for school on time and then to an appointment I had 40 minutes away.
But I wasn’t yelling. I was just using a "firm voice." A “firm voice” is so much better – it denotes a controlled seriousness. AM I RIGHT?!! (Oops, I wasn't yelling at you, was I?)
Molly, for one, wasn’t buying it.
Me: I’m NOT yelling. I’m being very calm. (I said through clenched teeth.)
Molly: Yes, but you have that tone.
Me: What "tone"? (I said with sarcastic impatience).
Molly: It’s that voice you use. The voice that means, “I’m really frustrated with you and I want to tear your head off, but I’m trying really hard to hold myself back.”
Her words hit me like a dagger. I thought back to how many times I had used that “tone” without knowing what it was really conveying to her and probably to her brother as well.
It wasn’t what I intended to convey. Yes, I was frustrated with them, but mainly I was stressed. Thinking of all I had to do. Not wanting to be late. Feeling the pressure of obligation.
But, as children are prone to do, Molly internalized all those emotions and assumed that she was the sole object and reason for my displeasure.
But exposing a wound always provides an opportunity for healing.
I asked Molly for forgiveness – not only for that morning, but for the many times I’d hurt her with my tone. That I didn’t realize the depth of what "that voice" conveyed to her. I also promised to remember this the next time I was frustrated.
And she accepted and responded softly herself.
Amazing what striking the right tone can do.
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. Proverbs 15:1 (NLT)