“Choosing One’s Battles Wisely”
“My Gutsy Story®” Donna L. Friess
“Choosing one’s battles” that’s good advice as it illustrates another way to live a gutsy life. It takes guts to hold back one’s emotions and not jump eagerly into a negative situation. I want to share a moment around our home which illustrates my point. My husband and I are caring for our grand dog Buddy while our youngest son and his family are skiing. Recently, I let Buddy and our three dogs out one last time before bed. For a moment all four dogs seemed to disappear into the inky darkness. Suddenly there was a noisy scuffle. I turned on the powerful outdoor light and saw that Buddy had caught a skunk; a very big black and white skunk! Quickly, realizing what he had caught, he released it, and in that instant it turned its huge and fluffy tail toward him and let loose! Horrified by what he had done and the stickiness of the odorific spray on his face, he rushed into the garage and frantically rubbed himself on his bedding in a vain attempt to rectify his condition. Tessie, his co-conspirator, did the same. Lacey and Zoe stood off to the side watching all the commotion, shaking their heads in wonder.
Shamed by their new smell, Buddy and Tessie lurked in the corners of the garage. I tended to them as best I could with a concoction of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. But the hour was late and the odor was seeping into my home. I bid them goodnight as they slinked into the shadows of the garage.
The next morning I went to let them out. Buddy shamefacedly hung his head, contrite over his foolishness. I had texted our son to share the late night excitement. His response was, “Buddy tangles with skunks about twice a month, he knows all about them, but never seems to learn!” So his surprised innocence was no longer working on me as I understood that it was the thrill of the confrontation that Buddy enjoyed.
Out in the big yard the next morning, he and Tessie went looking for more trouble hoping, I am sure, for a rematch with their worthy opponent. As I sat drinking my coffee, it occurred to me that sometimes humans do the same thing; engage in a conflict with an opponent, perhaps over the smallest thing, for the excitement of the exchange. It is true, the adrenaline flows, the heart pounds, and the muscles constrict and we’re ready for action. Only to find that later, when reason prevails, one feels foolish for the silliness of the altercation. Often the motivation is the thrill of the exchange, not the actually winning of the argument, and to make it worse, one never knows when they might get “skunked!”
I think it takes guts to take a hard look at one’s own interpersonal motivations and to hold back from the “thrill” of perhaps a dysfunctional argument. I love Jack Canfield’s formula. We can apply this to many situations. In fact, it can be empowering. It is EVENT + OUR RESPONSE = OUTCOME. We have the power to choose our response, which will affect the outcome. For now, the old saying, “One must choose one’s battles wisely” may apply here. I have to go, the thrill-seeker named Buddy is casing my yard for more excitement!
Donna L. Friess, Ph.D., author, psychologist and grief counselor has written a debut novel, The Unraveling of Shelby Forrest available at: www.amazon.com. She is an advocate for children’s rights, currently serving on a U.S. Justice Department Office for Victims of Crime Consortium. Her best selling, award-winning autobiography, Cry the Darkness, has been published in seven languages.
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