Good morning, and welcome to another New Sunday conversation. Just last week, something happened that reminded me of the profound ways emotion influences our lives. Often, when caught up the moment, it's easy to lose our inner balance, and forget a crucial truth about our daily highs and lows.
It was a typical weekday evening and I arrived home from work a few minutes past six. My wife and kids were sitting at the kitchen table, pencils in hand, performing their nightly ritual: homework.
As usual, I went around the table and gave each one a kiss on the forehead or a comforting hand on the shoulder. But my oldest daughter, normally enthusiastic, was quiet and distracted. I knew something wasn't right. I could see it in her face, pinched with worry and dread.
After some coaxing, my 10-year-old child explained that earlier in the day, during recess, she'd told a joke to her friends. The joke was overheard by a classmate, who felt the humor wasn't appropriate. While perhaps a tad off color, the joke was all in fun, and my daughter hadn't intended for the classmate to hear. Regardless, this young boy demanded that they conduct a "Peace Path" session the next day.
As I learned, a Peace Path is a process where two feuding classmates resolve their differences, with the help of a fellow student who acts as moderator. The Peace Path is literally a path painted on the blacktop of the playground. At certain points, the participants have to stop and follow the instructions, which take the form of prescribed conversation starters -- something like "Next time we will..." or, "I would feel better if...". It's a method to solve problems through thoughtful and direct communication.
Now, we didn't have Peace Paths when I was a kid, we solved our problems using old fashioned techniques of conflict resolution that are probably familiar to you. They go by names such as "bottling it up" or the "cold shoulder".
While unsophisticated, the old school approach usually led to resolution in one of two ways. After some time, we either forgot why we were fighting, and got back to playing, or the other kid's family moved to a new town---whichever came first.
In retrospect, I think the Peace Path is a better approach, but even so, my daughter didn't want to take part in the exercise, and later that evening, as I tucked her in for the night, she admitted that she was mortified her joke might come to light and cause her to be in trouble with the teacher. She was dreading it.
The next day at work I was distracted with worry. Her ordeal was never far from my thoughts. At ten in the morning -- my daughter’s first recess time -- I guessed that she was likely on the Peace Path. How was it going? Was the teacher offended by her joke? Had my little girl been sent to the dreaded Principal's office?
One of the ways you know you love someone is that their concerns become your own. Suffice it to say, I didn't get much work done.
The day dragged on and finally it was time to go. I couldn't get home fast enough. I raced up the front steps and dashed through the door, fully expecting tears and drama. Instead, there she was, doing her homework and looking relaxed. Everything seemed absolutely, "normal".
Confused, I asked how the Peace Path session went. Well, it turned out that it never took place as the classmate changed his mind. The joke incident was already a thing of the past. What felt like the end of the world yesterday, was a not even a thought today.
And this experience is one small example, but it points to a simple, yet profound, truth. Whether we label them good or bad, emotions are temporary. They come and go, ebbing and flowing through our lives, as fluid as clouds in the sky.
You will have down days. Life can and will be hard sometimes. You are not the first to lose a job, betray the trust of a friend, fail at an important project, or face divorce. When life is challenging, emotions run high. You may find yourself feeling frustrated or angry; overwhelmed or sad. It can be easy to believe that your feelings are permanent, and that belief can lead you into despair.
In these challenging moments, remember the story of my daughter's joke and the Peace Path. No matter how bad the storm of emotion feels in the moment, it is, in fact, going to change.
You see that even during the most extreme storm, the sun is still there. Perhaps out of sight, obstructed from view, but it always returns.
After all, emotions are temporary.