As I walked in the door yesterday from a long day’s work, I opened a letter from our HOA – a violation letter from our HOA. Apparently, we have 30 days to remove “mold/mildew” from the side of our house or we will be fined. And, they cushioned the blow by stating that we were not the “only resident to receive such a letter – others in our community received similar letters.” My reaction to this? I was FUMING. I’m not sure if it was due to the fact that it hit me just as I got home from work, or if it was outrage that one of my neighbors “reported” me to the HOA. I stalked out of the house, walked over to the side of my house that rarely sees the sun, and had to really look for that small patch of mold/mildew that was there (I knew we had a little bit, and it was already on our “to-do” list for the spring). I began ranting to myself about how someone would have to come onto my property and LOOK for this to even know it was here, then I began running through my head which of my neighbors would want to report such a minor thing to the HOA. Friends, it wasn’t pretty :(.
What made this even worse was that after I made my inspection around the entire house, my neighbor across the street had just pulled into his driveway. He waved and asked how I was doing. He shouldn’t have asked. “I’m furious!,” I exclaimed. I gave him the scoop, of which he seemed shocked because he has a similar situation and he had not received a letter. That just fueled my rant and I went on and on, even when his lovely wife came outside to say hello. On and on and on I rambled, complained, and vented. Finally, I just went back inside and decided I needed to go for a run.
I let my frustration fuel me as I began my running playlist, put in my ear buds, and began running down the street. As my foot strikes began to find their rhythm, I was taking note of the numerous homes I passed who had much more mold/mildew than our house did. My frustration worsened as my feet hit the ground <thump, thump, thump>. I began running through scenarios in my head of what I could do to air my frustration. Should I post something on our neighborhood Facebook page? Should I call the HOA management company and complain about the rest of these homes I see? <thump, thump, thump> My running became steady, and as it did, my breathing found a good pace. My mind was clearing and my thoughts were refocusing.
By the end of my run I was on a completely different train of thought. The HOA was only doing its job. Whoever called and complained about our home had their reasons, of which I really didn’t need to know. Most importantly, I owed my neighbors an apology for ranting the way I did – I was suddenly ashamed of myself and embarrassed of the way I acted. My neighbors are precious to me and instead of being “neighborly” and kind when I saw them, I was selfish and rude. I realized, in that 35 minute run, that the way I react (or reacted) to this situation will speak volumes to others about the person I am. I needed to proceed with caution.
After my shower I sat in front of my computer and pulled up Facebook. No, I didn’t venture over to the neighborhood page. Instead, I send a private message to my neighbors apologizing for my behavior and asked for their forgiveness (they have a young child and I didn’t want to call that late at night so this was the best option). I then pulled up my email and sent a very nice email to the HOA letting them know that I will comply with their requirement, but I requested an extension due to the fact that this is winter and I had already planned to take care of this in the spring. I shut down my computer and began to pray. I thanked God for giving me clarity when I needed it and then I asked God to work within me to be able to better handle future frustrations in my life. Most importantly, to contemplate rather than react. Through contemplation and reflection I found peace and understanding. Through hairpin reaction I found anger and shame. I needed to learn from this.
I feel fairly certain that most of us have had “hairpin reactions” in our lives. Times we reacted and then regretted it later. Maybe it was that angry email you sent and wished you hadn’t. Or perhaps it was the harsh words you delivered to your child out of frustration only to wish you would have handled it differently. I share my experience because I want to offer to you the peace that can be found from stopping, praying, contemplating, and reflecting. Our reactions to conflicts and struggles in our lives really do define who we are. We can’t control those icky things that go on around us, but we certainly can control how we react.
Proverbs 13:16 (NLT)
16 Wise people think before they act;
fools don’t—and even brag about their foolishness.