Sunday, December 7, 2014


My one word for 2014 was "ignore." I remember well writing this. I remember the frustration I felt regarding facebook, especially. Many posts in my newsfeed had gotten under my skin: political, religious, and especially those I'd thought judgmental. I'd felt the need, often, to comment—to express my “righteous indignation”—but even when I'd managed to refrain from commenting, I'd found myself arguing in my head with the person whose words had offended me.

Sometimes, after crafting an argument in my head for days, I'd blogged it out. Those argumentative posts, while popular, hadn’t fulfilled my purpose in blogging: to capture my family and myself in words. I hadn’t been writing for my children but, instead, to those with whom I'd disagreed most vehemently.

Over time, I'd damaged relationships—including some that I hold most dearly—with anger, distraction, or both.

I started unfriending and unfollowing people whose words offended me but realized pretty quickly: I wasn't any less angry or angry less often. Facebook felt like a bottomless barrel of offense, and the facebook friends whose words offended me had, in most cases, nothing in common but me. I was the common denominator. I knew my anger was my problem, but I didn't know how to fix my problem! Finally, I deactivated my account.

I was facebook free for four months, and it was a good four months. It was quieter in my head. I thought and wrote happier thoughts, and God seemed nearer. I seemed nearer to myself.

Ultimately, though, I missed my friends...some with whom I retain contact only through facebook. I missed the ease with which I could get in touch with them, ask them questions, and keep up with not only their lives but also local events and opportunities. Facebook is an incredible source of information!

Since reactivating my account, I've handled facebook a bit better. I avoid it when my feed blows up over a particularly divisive issue. In most cases, when someone's words offend me, I choose not to comment, and inasmuch as possible, I choose to think about something else. I still unfriend and unfollow on occasion.

But what I really want to share with you is this: my counselor, in talking with me about my reactionary tendencies, suggested gently that I'm giving most anyone the power to trigger my anger at any moment. I'm like a marionette dangling from thousands of strings. The great irony in this is that--often, when I respond with anger--it's because I feel like someone is attempting to control me: trying to tell me what to think or do, judging me, patronizing me. But only in getting worked up (over what I perceive as someone's attempt to control me) do I lose I, effectively, hand over control.

I shared some of my struggles, recently, with a pastor friend. (I would be remiss if I failed to say: it was incredibly providential that we even had the time and space for the conversation; we were supposed to be meeting with others who were--through no fault of their own--running late.) My friend is a student of Bowen Family Systems Theory, and he offered me a new word: differentiation, which relates to one's ability to separate his or her emotions and thinking from that of others. A person with a high level of differentiation, according to Bowen, will find himself or herself capable of connection (relationships) with others, in general, but disconnection from others' emotions and thinking. 

I realized: I don't want to ignore others. I want to differentiate from others. I want to grow in terms of emotional maturity. I want, in short, to be able to think and convey with calmness and dignity: inasmuch as you are you, I am me, and I will choose how I behave and think. 

So my word for 2015, and the remainder of 2014, is differentiate. I'm tired of being a marionette! And isn't God good for helping us, oftentimes through other people? I'm so thankful.


  1. OH MY GOODNESS, don't you love how the Lord speaks right to us and makes something that made sense (as in ignore) work with you in that and completely give the word a new meaning (or a new word) You have had a busy year working these things out, I know. It just makes you even that more beautiful my friend.

  2. Facebook is still one of those "Love it/Hate it" technology relationships for me. A lot of folks who, when they aren't giving out a knee-jerk, emotionally-driven reaction to a current outrageous news story, are good friends, and I'm mostly able to keep them as friends (though I may hide a post or a dozen in my feed, I don't see the need to unfriend as many as I once did.

    Another thing I had to learn to remember is that I am not my feelings - I have them, but I am not solely defined by them - but I best watch what behaviors I allow them to launch me into. Not always an easy thing to do. :-)

    You and I, my friend? We're long overdue for a phone chat. I know it's the holidays and time is a precious commodity, but if you still have my email, do drop me a line with a good day and time for me to call (or you call, whenever you want). Remember you are loved :-)

  3. Differentiate, not exactly a word for the year you can hang decoratively on the wall, but one I think I could stand to learn more about!

  4. I love the word "differentiate" from my teacher days - I taught special ed and had to adapt things to meet the kids where they were academically. I love how you have applied it here and I am with you - let us breathe in together, put on the Armor of God, and go forth in love with calm.

  5. I, too, used to get "all het up" over Facebook posts. I block, or if it's relentless, unfriend. Phooey. Life is too short to worry about the people who use what to me is a family dinner table to spout and spew. In any case, I do like the idea of differentiation! That is something I am going to study up on, and adopt in my life!

    Peace <3

  6. Hello, beautiful,

    I vaguely remember this word from counseling classes, though we were mostly dealing with the cognitive-behavior stuff rather than systems in my program. Differentiate. I think sometimes I do it too much. Like, even with my own emotions. Isn't it just like me to do too much of a good thing until its a bad thing? Sigh. I'm just going to have to keep loving myself into healthiness. And loving you too.

  7. Happy New year, Brandee!

    I love that term and the definition you posted here: "A person with a high level of differentiation, according to Bowen, will find himself or herself capable of connection (relationships) with others, in general, but disconnection from others' emotions and thinking. "

    I wouldn't have been able to codify that concept as well as your pastor friend did, but wow, it's a necessary trait and a healthy characteristic. One I want to hone more in my life too. That's where peace can reign well, huh?

    Have a great week,
    Jennifer Dougan