Each day brings new opportunities; that's the good news. But let's be honest—a new day also sometimes brings new challenges, even adversity. Sometimes adversity appears as fate or happenstance or just bad luck. The coffee maker quit working this morning. You got caught walking in a downpour without an umbrella. Starbucks ran out of oat milk for your favorite flaming nutmeg latte. Those situations are irritating on their own, but what about when adversity rears its head in the form of another person? These are often the most daunting situations because our "irritation" frequently rises to the level of anger when other people are involved; anger, if left unchecked, might rise to rage, leading to thoughts and fantasies of—dare we say it?—revenge. When my boys were very young and in the throes of one of their epic fights, my younger son would often storm out of the room with one tiny, clenched fist raised in the air while shouting, "Vengeance is mine!" My husband and I were just thankful he was quoting the Bible, even if it was slightly out of context. If we're not careful, we can go through life with a similar vengeful attitude which robs our joy and slowly makes us bitter and cynical.
We should try to remember some advice I heard recently: "Don't fight back. Fight forward." It sounds catchy, maybe even inspiring, but what might this look like, practically speaking? Rather than dwelling on ways to get back at those who have wronged us, what if instead we immediately shifted our focus to moving forward in a healthy, productive way? That's not to say we spontaneously "forgive and forget"—we're talking reality after all, and while getting to that place might be our ultimate ideal goal, it may take a while. The phrase "fight forward" perhaps resembles a concept like "push through" which is often used by personal trainers in fitness classes yelling this encouraging slogan to their exhausted clients. Fight forward, and try to move beyond this negative incident. Easier said than done, right? First, try not to dwell on your encounter or confrontation with that jerk (oops, person). You may need to distract yourself by quickly trying an activity to clear your head and calm your temper: walk down the hallway for a cup of cold water; clean out and inventory your pocketbook; turn on Pandora's "easy listening" station and close your eyes for a few minutes. Another popular slogan warns us against dwelling on negative memories: "Don't let them rent space in your head." The more time you waste by fuming about that other person, the more they have won a victory over your mental and emotional health. Don't do it.
Once you've cleared your mind and reigned in your emotions, think of productive ways to "fight" this type of adversarial situation in the future. Notice I didn't say think of ways to fight that awful person who made you angry; rather, what can you do to help yourself when faced with similar dilemmas in the future? Avoidance is sometimes one answer—try not to put yourself in places and in proximity to toxic people. But if you're comfortable with confrontation, plan out a strategy to initiate constructive dialogue—regulate your tone of voice, facial expressions, and try to be civil and pleasant as you explain your side of things. You may discover sometimes this will work, and the adversary may actually listen to reason. Fighting back leads to scars; fighting forward leads to progress.