Something happens when we deny ourselves what we most want to do, whether it's complaining or fighting back or defending our actions: we grow and improve, ever so slightly with each of our choices. We are growing all of the time, and we determine what direction that growth is in. We either get more negative and bitter, or we take the harder road and we get a little bit stronger and healthier with each choice we make.
I've been experiencing this lately, and I am amazed that I didn't seem to understand this process before. I think I was so busy complaining on a regular basis that I didn't even recognize what was happening. I didn't take the higher road in my relationships because I didn't know it was there. I'm trying to be more aware of the paths available to me on any given day. I can take the same one I've always taken, or I can try a new direction.
I love what personal growth gives me in the long term, but damn, do I ever detest the moment of choice and the mid-point. It's bumpy as hell, and so tempting to give in to my base urges to criticize, whine, complain, gossip or tell someone what I really think of them. Intentionally choosing not to engage in what feels comfortable but I know only leads me to misery is very hard, but in that moment, I feel the stretch and know that I have moved infinitesimally toward something better in myself.
We have to train our eyes to look for another way. Giving in to what we've always done or seeking that rush which accompanies surrendering to our anger in the name of justice might help us feel better in the moment, but long-term it doesn't help us to grow in a positive direction. Even taking a few deep breaths at the second we want to react makes a big difference. It gives us a margin of perspective that we are unable to achieve when our emotions are bubbling to the surface.
As humans, it is both good and bad that we have so many choices. We can hold ourselves to a higher standard, but only if we want to. That growing edge is sharp and rough and it hurts badly. Before this season in my life, I virtually always gave in to the easier way. I complained, I stood up for myself, I fought back when I felt I had been crossed.
Now I know I don't have to react automatically anymore. I can choose to do nothing when someone has wounded me. I can be baited, and I can decide not to rise to the bait. Or I can fight back when I feel I need to. It's good to have the choice, and over a period of time I hope that I will learn when it's worth it to speak and when I should remain silent, no matter how hard it is.