Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Anger Strikes at Starbucks

I witnessed an incident at Starbucks that inspired me to write. A girl and her friend were sitting outside enjoying some coffee, when the mother of one of them walked up and a fight ensued. The girls were probably right around 20 years old.

I tried not to listen, but it was difficult. The gist of what happened is that the daughter wouldn't tell her mother where she was going, who she was going with or when she was going. She refused to check-in with her mother. Her mother said she wanted to know where the girl was so she didn't have to worry. They were so angry with each other, I could feel the heat.

I felt bad for them both and wished they knew a better way to deal with conflict.

While listening to them, some of the first thoughts that came to my mind were respect and control. Both parties need to have respect for each other -- the daughter, who is presumably living under her mother's roof, and the mother, because her daughter is an adult now.

Both are using control to irritate the other. The mother is being controlling with the way she is demanding to know many details about the daughter's where-a-bouts, and the daughter is being controlling, by purposefully withholding information. It's a power struggle.

I wondered what would happen if each of them put themselves in the other person's shoes. If the daughter could ponder what might be going through her mother's mind, and how her mother might feel with no idea where her daughter is or who she is with. What if the mother could reflect on her younger years when she wanted freedom and flexibility from her parents? Could this be how her daughter is feeling now? 

Even when there are years of resentment built up between people -- as was evident with this mother and daughter -- every one of us has the power to change the course for the better. One day at a time. One interaction at a time.

Let's imagine a new scenario. The mother comes up to the table and vents her frustration to her daughter. Instead of firing back, what if the daughter acknowledges her mother and says, "I love you, mom. I can see you're really upset by this. Can we talk about it later tonight?" No matter what the mother says -- even if she continues to fire back -- the daugher remains calm, loving and consistent in her request to continue the conversation later. Because, the truth is, no good will come out of a volatile conversation where one or both of the people involved are overly emotional and not thinking clearly.

Think it's impossible? It's not. Yes, it takes practice. Yes, it takes self-control. No, it is not easy. But, is the end-result worth it? YES! We can all start healing difficult relationships in our lives by handling difficult conversations like this one in a new manner.

-- Written with prayerful hope for this mother and daughter to heal their relationship.


  1. i love the idea of not having to always feel like i'm 'in control' of a situation. staying calm and being loving to the other person in the situation can't hurt the outcome, but it's not easy! thank you for a reminder that we get love by giving it, we get resolution by being open to it, and we receive understanding by being understainding.

  2. Kara: You're right. To move foward, we have to understand that we cannot control anyone but ourselves and our responses.

    Tina: You're right, too! We all need to practice a little "serenity now" (aka George Costanza's dad on Seinfeld) in our lives. What a difference it makes to learn to not boil over with anger at every little "injustice" that happens to us.....usually in hindsight we can see how it really wasn't the big deal we momentarily perceived it to be.