Working in recovery ministry I get to hear many statements that while they seem to be about others, are actually about the person who speaks them. Some of the interesting ones relate to getting provoked by others. Here are some typical examples:
- She pushes my buttons.
- I broke it because he upset me.
- I hit her; she deserved it for not having my dinner ready.
- She dresses like a slut, so I treated her like one.
- He made me so angry.
- I whipped my son for lying to me.
These and the many more that I’m sure a reader can come up with are all about blaming others for our actions. It happens when our buttons are pushed. This is the general sequence of events that occur when a button is pushed:
- We develop in life creating a past.
- Certain things from the past bother us.
- Because of these “certain things” we develop one or more emotional buttons.
- When our button or buttons get pushed we internally respond in an affective (emotional) way.
- We react toward the person (and sometimes others) whose actions have stimulated our internal response.
- Our reactions are always internal, and sometimes we add external reactions on top of our internal reactions.
- We blame them for our actions.
This may seem a little simplistic, but it does capture the essence of what happens in the life of a button owner.
For most of us this responding to a button pushing event is an automatic psychological process; but it doesn’t have to be.
So often our reactions to having our buttons being pushed end up with negative results. Here are some everyday examples:
- Getting cut off on the freeway.
- Our spouse cuts us down with a critical remark.
- The boss comes in and yells at us for something we didn’t do.
Wouldn’t life be a little better if we didn’t react to a button pushing but instead were able to move right along and deal with the situation in an adult, meaning emotionally mature, way? If you don’t know the answer to that, yes it would, and not just for us, but also for every person around us. (There is one possible exception to this; sometimes we have a person in our life who likes to push our buttons for their own purposes.)
Scripture speaks to this when it says this:
Gal 5:22-25 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. ESV
Slap bang in the middle of this scripture are the words “self-control”, and it is that godly characteristic that gets thrown out of the window when we allow our buttons to be pushed.
Our buttons belong to us, we developed them and we maintain them; we are 100% responsible for them. Our ability to handle a button-pushing episode demonstrates our spiritual and emotional maturity.
So, how are we supposed to handle life when a button gets pushed? The last verse of the scripture above says it.
- Walk by the Spirit.
It is only when we walk by the Spirit that we can exercise self-control, because it is part of the fruit of the Spirit. True self-control is powered by the Holy Spirit, what others demonstrate may look like this, but it is self-restraint and is powered by the sinful nature. Self-control will never fail us; self-restraint is likely to when it reaches its breaking point.
To overcome our tendency to react to a button pushing we must prepare. Preparation begins with taking ownership of the issue in our lives and handing the problem over to God. For me, it is prayer and walking by the Spirit that helps.
If a person wants to stop allowing their buttons to rule their life, they must first take ownership, acknowledge that in every button pushing episode in their life there is one common characteristic; and it is the person who owns the button. It is us!