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How to STOP OVERREACTING when it’s your Default Mode

The house was a mess. Toys, shoes, backpacks – they were EVERYwhere and I was SO angry about it. My house was so disorganized and I just couldn’t take another minute of it! I ripped through the front room, scooping up my kids’ stuff and launching it out the front door into the yard. I yelled and yelled…it was not my most stellar parenting moment. The real kicker is that I KNEW I was over-reacting. These precious children had been lazy about tidying up their belongings, yes, but they certainly did not deserve such a fit but I just could not figure out HOW TO STOP OVERREACTING!

The fact is that sometimes women overreact because it just feels good.

(Okay, this applies to men too, but I am going to focus my attention on what I know best!)

God created women to be emotional beings and soWE EMOTE!!

And sometimes it gets LOUD and, if we are being honest, it even gets CRAZY. We may blame our overreaction on hormones. We may blame our overreaction on other people. And, sometimes, we blame our overreaction on circumstances that are out of our control (sleep-deprived moms, I know your pain!). And while all of those factors certainly play a part…

the one thing that is the most responsible for our overreaction is us.

So how do we STOP overreacting?!

There isn’t a married couple in the world that doesn’t know what absolute foolishness THAT advice is. Do you want to know what my response to that comment would be? “Yes, I am aware that I am overreacting. I just don’t care!”

But the reality is that we DO overreact and we MUST get control.

There are 4 stages we all go through as we experience spiritual growth. (I went through each slowly as I learned how to stop overreacting.)

ACKNOWLEDGE the sin

We have to see our behavior for what it is. There comes a point when we need to STOP blaming our behavior on the contributing factors and evaluate our hearts. Our outward behavior is a direct reflection of our inward struggle. We need to acknowledge that we are in the wrong! There was a time when I had very little regard for protecting the relationships I had with my husband and children. Thus, I had very little awareness of how inappropriate my behavior was until God opened my eyes.

CONVICTION of sin

Once I acknowledged that my anger was way out of line, the Holy Spirit started to work on changing me. When I lost my temper with my husband or kids, a little voice in my head calmly reminded me I was overreacting (unlike my husband making that same comment, I actually cared this time!).

This voice did not suddenly stop me from flipping out. However, I did care that what I was saying, and how I was saying it, was damaging the relationships with the people I loved the most. I wasn’t just sorry. I wanted to change.

Here were some suggestions I had been given on how to stop overreacting…

  • I memorized verses on anger in hopes they might come to mind in the heat of the moment. I didn’t remember them when I needed them. Nothing changed.
  • I hung sticky notes all over the house that said, “God is with you!” in hopes that it would remind me to pray when things started to spin out of control. I didn’t look at them when I needed to. Nothing changed.
  • I asked a friend to randomly ask me how I was treating my husband and kids in hopes that accountability would prevent me from behaving wrongly. She did. I confessed. Nothing changed.

Clearly I was missing something, BUT WHAT?!

All those things I was doing were good, but I was still relying on my own strength to control my overreactive behavior. I was just certain that I could figure out some “trick” that would suddenly give me self-control.

Spoiler Alert: I never found it!

Until one day I realized I had nowhere else to go but to God.

Now don’t misunderstand what was happening. I didn’t suddenly get “super-spiritual.” I didn’t pray for God to help me calm down. I didn’t pray that He would give me peace in the chaos. Instead, I turned my massive overreaction in His direction.

I screamed at God. He responded.
(Read more about that story here.)

REPENTANCE (turning away from sin)

From that day forward, I prayed God would help me see triggers before they were set off. I asked for wisdom on when to remove myself from situations that had the potential to make me crazy mad. When I lost my cool anyway, I confessed to God and my family and I asked for forgiveness. Slowly but surely, I overreacted less and exerted self-control more because I was no longer fighting my sin alone, I was relying on God to strengthen me. 

GROWTH (moving past the sin)

It’s not that I will never overreact again, but I am no longer the “Wife/Mom Bomb” I once was. I have replaced my anger habit with new, constructive behaviors (5 Ways to Break the Angry Habit).

With the help of the Holy Spirit,overreacting is no longer my Default Mode.

Need more help on this topic? Check out this Focus on the Family Broadcast Game Plan for Having a Happier Family

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