Empowered to Connect

Seeing Beyond Mad to the Sad

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I don’t know about you, but I’m not fond of those moments when my child stomps away in a huff, or crosses her arms as she looks at me. She is mad, and my initial response is to be irritated. As she settles deeper into “mad,” I can feel myself pull away from her. I get short with her and find I don’t want to look in her eyes.

I need to stop.

This is the crucial moment when I need to stop the “mad cycle” and see it for what it really is.

She is sad.

Sadness has woven its way into her life in ways you and I can hardly imagine. Imagine her in an orphanage as a small child feeling sad; there is no mommy to say, “Honey, come sit with me. Let me hold you.” No, when she was sad, she learned that it felt much better to be mad. Mad felt good, sad felt overwhelming and unending.

She lived where there were few adults to carefully watch over her and guide her through her feelings, so she protected herself by being mad. How did she cope? She turned away from the adults and became bossy toward the other children. She felt some relief from the sorrow that had been building up in her heart. She was in control once again; nobody could hurt her.

She kept account of wrong doings, slights, and disappointments, which she carefully filed in her mind. She could hold a grudge like nobody’s business. Stories of days of refusing to speak to a certain teacher or nanny were told to us. Refusal to eat, work, or make eye contact were not uncommon for her.

Then she joined our family and we saw a child who was easily angered, tried to control the other children, and was stubborn beyond reason. And disrespect? We weren’t sure she even knew she was supposed to respect us because she sure didn’t act like it.

When I remember where she has come from, I can see past her “mad” to the real “sad.” I can hold myself in a nurturing mode and keep building those bonds of attachment. I can speak the truth to her: “Honey, you look angry, but I can see that your heart is actually feeling sad.” This is often all it takes to break through the mad.

Recently we had a moment just like this. I talked frankly with her about my love for her, the love of Jesus, and His power to heal her sadness. I encouraged her to let go of her “mad,” even if it meant feeling those deep sad feelings. She turned her eyes from me and I waited. It wasn’t long before she said, “Mommy, I’m sorry. Please forgive me for being so naughty. I know you love me. I’m just sad that my Mom died and you never had your Mom die so you don’t know how bad it feels.”

Her “mad” turned to “sad” –- we’re making progress.

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