By Beth Demme
I was standing at the stove the other night boiling water for spaghetti. As I stood there mindlessly watching the pot of water, my mother’s sweet voice rang through my mind, “a watched pot never boils.”
It’s an old expression about the passage of time and how everything seems to take longer when we’re waiting, but lately I’ve been thinking about it differently.
I feel like I am a pot of water and I boil over too often.
Water is essential to health and life, but when the right amount of heat and pressure are applied, water boils. At that point, the goodness of water can turn into something destructive.
As a mom who struggles with anger, I’ve noticed my emotions can turn into something destructive, too. When the right amount of heat and pressure are applied, I seem to boil over, burning everything I touch.
If I watch my pot of emotions, will they be slower to boil?
I hope so. I’m finding that simple awareness of my feelings enables me to withstand more heat and pressure. In that way, watching my pot of emotions really does seem to delay the boil.
I check in on my pot of emotions throughout the day with these three questions:
- What am I feeling?
- Why am I feeling this way?
- Can I deal with this situation without boiling over or do I need a time-out?
These questions also reveal what causes the heat and pressure to increase. Whether I call it worry, frustration, disappointment, or guilt, it often comes back to the same underlying emotion — fear.
Specifically, fear of future outcomes.
I worry a lot about how my children will “turn out.” I worry something will keep them from living happy, productive lives centered on God.
This kind of worrying makes everything high stakes.
When my children (now ages 11 and 13) are in the midst of a squabble with a friend, or they’re sulking around, or they bomb a test, I don’t chalk it up to age appropriate behavior. I worry it’s a sign of impending doom.
Worrying about the future isn’t productive, especially when it increases the heat and pressure and sends me into a boil.
Jesus never preached on boiling water or watched pots, but he did talk about worry. In the Gospel of Matthew, he says, “I tell you not to worry about your life. Can worry make you live longer?” (Matthew 6:25, 27 CEV) A few verses later Jesus is even more direct: “Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today.” (Matthew 6:34)
In other words, “hey Beth, stop filling your pot of emotions with worry about those future outcomes — it is NOT helping.”
Instead of worrying so intensely about how life will turn out for my children, I can focus on enjoying life with them today.
Instead of being so frustrated about a bad grade that I let my emotions get to the boiling point, I can remember my child’s heart matters far more than any grade.
Instead of worrying their sulking is something more than age-appropriate hormones, I can tell them I love them and make our home a safe place for them to work through their feelings.
Because I want our home to be a safe place, I’m watching my pot of emotions and doing my best to make sure I don’t boil over.
What about you? Are you a simmering pot on the verge of boiling over? What triggers your boiling point? What strategies do you use to delay or prevent the boil? Tell me about it in the comments, on Facebook, Twitter, or via e-mail.
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