It is amazing how a few words can set you off. It might be a bumper sticker with a controversial message, a passing comment you overhear, or possibly a comment directed specifically for you. Regardless of how the words come to you, certain phrases have a way of just tweaking our sensitivities to the point that we are ready to fight. Each one of us has a slightly different set of issues or “hot buttons” that set us off. These “hot buttons” can be anything from social issues, to personal beliefs, to religious ideals that we hold dear to us. For our purposes here, I’m not talking about the little idiosyncrasies that bug us. We’ll save how annoying it is to leave an empty roll on the toilet paper holder or carelessly putting something back on a meticulously organized shelf for a later date.
For tonight, I want to focus on those phrases or ideas that come from others that send our moods and thoughts into a tailspin or seem to set us ablaze with a fire that would make a Baptist preacher step back and say “damn, calm down.”
What is it about these topics that get us so worked up? Why do they push us over the top so much faster than other topics? Rather than try to give you bland, middle of the road advice on why your hot buttons bug you, I’m going to share with you some of mine and explore why they affect me. Hopefully, this will give you some ideas on how you can inspect your own buttons and maybe, just maybe, deactivate the ones that don’t really serve you any purpose.
The first one, and really the reason for this topic, is the Pro-Life movement.
I was driving to work the other day and saw a bumper sticker on the back of a car that read: “40 million aborted: Who’s missing from your neighborhood?” I was immediately set off. I had that slogan running through my head all day at work and continually played out in my head the various things I would say to that person should we ever actually meet. The phrasing of the sticker would seem to imply that throughout the years since Roe v. Wade, people have been abducting and killing babies that should otherwise be playing happily in your local park or back yard. Seriously? Is that really your impression of what the world would be like without abortion? 40 million more bouncing little babies floating on clouds and rainbows. Ugh. An alternative perspective based on statistics and history shows that if those 40 million babies were alive today, a sizable percentage of them would likely be criminals and/or a drain on our public welfare system. If you familiar with Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, you have been introduced to the idea that the major drop in crime during the late eighties was not just a result of change in politics or police strategy. It was also largely a result of the legalization of abortion. Giving women the right to choose what they did with their bodies as opposed to mandating against that, provided countless women the opportunity to end unwanted pregnancies and ones that could likely end the mother’s life. These were pregnancies conceived through various situations including rape, incest, loving relationships and even their own stupidity. Regardless of how the conception took place, the mother recognized that she would be unable to provide the child with the emotional, financial, physical and/or mental support that they needed to be successful and made the severely taxing choice to end the pregnancy. A choice to the contrary, would likely end up with a child who is left in poverty on a material and psychological level. This level of poverty breeds desperation and need. When that need cannot be fulfilled through legal and ordinary means, it is fulfilled in whatever way it can be. How is that good for our society?
So, who is missing from my neighborhood? 40 million potentially poverty stricken children with likely emotional and mental scarring? No thank you, we have enough of those already that we can’t take care of.
You see, this is a hot button. I just spent the last couple minutes ranting about a bumper sticker on a car I’ve never seen before, driven by a person I will likely never meet. Why does this movement get me so riled up? A big part of it for me is the idea that the world is black and white. The name itself, “Pro-Life”, implies that anyone that does not prescribe to their viewpoint is automatically “Anti- Life”. There is an implied equation that by supporting a woman’s right to choose what happens within her body you are encouraging the slaughter of babies. I can’t say that I have ever met a Pro-Choice advocate that has ever made a statement that equates to “I love killing babies!” No one wants life to end, regardless of how it began. But, individuals need to have the right to choose what happens to them. There are way too many shades of gray in our world to say that things like abortion should be banned and criminalized. Obviously, I am not a woman. I cannot speak to the emotional toll that takes place after making a choice like this. What I can speak to is how I would feel were the roles reversed. Fellow gentlemen, imagine for a minute that society had flipped and it was women who had been running our government since its inception. Now assume that at some point they decided that they knew best what should be done with our genitals. Wouldn’t you be upset? Who are they to decide what I can or cannot do with my body! Well, that is exactly what our male dominated society and government tries to do to them with ridiculous black and white arguments like this.
This is a hot button that I don’t really want to deactivate. It serves my higher good to get upset, but I do need to find better ways to channel that anger. Public activism and support of equal rights movements may be a much better way to actually make progress in this area rather than just bitching about it. My resolution for this issue will be to increase my public and personal support of Pro-Choice organizations and causes. Instead of just complaining about the inequalities, I will do my part to reconcile them.
Now, what about a hot button that I really should deactivate.
I pride myself on being flexible in most situations. I can roll with the punches and throw my hands up on the roller coaster of life without much fear of falling out of the car. That is, unless I have made specific plans for something.
In my line of work at the day job, flexibility has always been an important aspect of success. I work in food service and the idea of any one day being just like the next is unheard of. Regardless of whether I was working in restaurants, hotels or now in educational dining, there is no such thing as a “standard day”. Each day brings with it specific new challenges that have never been faced before. Sure, you have your menus set and your prep established and you have a pretty good idea of when your customers will show up. But there are no guarantees. On any given day you may find your guest count to be way down, leaving you with a bunch of extra food. Or that dreaded tour bus may show up unannounced and leave you scrambling to feed an extra 50 people that you had no food prepared for. Regardless of the day, there is always something to bend and twist with. If you can’t adapt, you will fail. With 20 years of this behind me, why is it so hard for me to be flexible when plans I make change at the last minute?
The biggest trigger, when it comes to this area, seems to be in social planning. There have been a number of times that I have made plans to go somewhere and at the last minute, something happens and I cannot go. Inevitably, I find myself in a tailspin of frustration, anger and general pissy-ness for the remainder of the day. Sometimes I justify it by saying that the event was a one time deal and it will never happen again. I have a right to be pissed off because something amazing might have happened and now I am going to miss it. Typically, however, despite my justifications, the event is something that I have other opportunities to attend and I am just upset because I had my mind set in one direction and now I feel derailed. When I have a goal or plan in mind, I am like a freight train. Set in my tracks and headed in one direction along a very prescribed path. I shouldn’t feel this way with all of the training and experience in change management that I have, but for some reason it just chaps my ass to have my plans change so suddenly.
In exploring this, it seems that much of my frustration has to do with my own need for control. In my work situation, even when plans change and new obstacles arise, I am in control. My staff looks to me for guidance and direction. They look to me for how to navigate through the ups and downs of the day. I have control even if it doesn’t always seem like it. However, in my personal life, I cannot maintain that level of control. I cannot run my family like they are my staff. They are not paid to put up with me, they are they because they love me. If I start bossing them around and directing their every move, they will quickly lose that warm fuzzy feeling and revolt. I cannot control them. Instead, I must coexist with them and blend my desires and plans with theirs. Many times, this all harmonizes well and we go about our merry ways. Other times, their plans clash with mine and take precedence over what I had set in my head and heart for the day. It is in these times that I need to release my control. I need to remove my ego and realize that it is not about me. My family loves me and would willingly follow through on the plans were it possible. However, for one reason or another that possibility is gone and they need me to be flexible enough to adjust to that. In working to deactivate this hot button, I am seeking to harness more of my watery nature. Instead of focusing on being this metaphorical freight train, I will think of myself more as a ship. Still a powerful driving force that can carry huge loads and travel great distances to make things possible. But, one that can change direction when needed.
These are by no means my only hot buttons and as I work to release some, I am certain others will pop up to take their place. However, as I work to explore and understand them, I can see where I have room to grow and learn. By investigating your own triggers and buttons, you will find yourself seeing your world in a whole new light. The buttons that really do not serve you can be deactivated. The ones that do can be harnessed to create change and progress in yourself and the world around you. Exploring and understanding ourselves is the key to understanding those around us. Know thyself and you know the world.
What are your hot buttons and how have you investigated them? Are there some that you are ready to deactivate? Share your thought with us in the comments!
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