(Article submitted to Xenia-Gazette)
You know what a “timeout” is, right? Sports teams call them to stop the clock, to regroup, to interrupt their opponents’ momentum, to clarify strategy or to just catch their breath.
Many Proverbs address the value of emotional de-escalation. For example, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1). “Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger” (29:8). “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (29:11). “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins” (29:22).
The New Testament also emphasizes the need for controlling anger. “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26, 27). “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Colossians 3:8). “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing” (I Timothy 2:8).
So how do these clear exhortations relate to taking a “timeout”? The purpose is to give our “emotional brain” time to cool down so that our “thinking brain” can become productive again. The fact is, we do and say things when angry and emotionally stirred up that we later regret and wish we could reverse. Here are several practical tips on taking a timeout:
Call a timeout by . . . 1) saying “I need a timeout to calm down and collect my thoughts”; avoid saying “YOU need a timeout!”, 2) suggesting a time to re-connect (30 minutes to an hour); don’t just leave without saying when you’ll return, and 3) spending time in an activity that helps you calm down (such as journaling, listening to music, running, etc.).
The definition of insanity, according to Albert Einstein, is “doing the same thing again and again while expecting different results”. Sanity would be trying a new approach . . . like calling a timeout when emotions have run over the banks of rationality and self-control.
So, you know what a timeout is, right? Calling one at the right time might help you prevent defeat.