Confessions of a reformed pouter

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

I come from a long line of pouters. Championship pouting is an art form. It's a combination of a sulk and retaliatory anger. A pout is usually based on a perception that one has been treated unfairly. In order to make this clear to all those around, a good pouter will attempt to make everyone feel guilty and miserable.

When I was little, if one of my brothers or sisters began to pout, the rest of us kids would try to overcome the pout by saying "Don't crack a smile" over and over, in different ways. Saying it quickly and unexpectedly sometimes startled a smile out of the pouter. The reason for winning this smile, even if resorting to tickling was necessary, was that as soon as the person smiled, he or she didn't feel so stuck in pouting.

I'm grateful to say I married a non-pouter. He ignores my pouting, and there is nothing a pouter dislikes more than being ignored. This has helped me break the habit and to simply say what's bothering me, instead of waiting for him to realize I'm pouting and try to figure out what's wrong.

Who is most hurt by indulging in pouting? The pouter. In fact, indulgence in any form of hostile resentment or withholding tends to make us feel disgusted with ourselves, and sometimes this can affect how we feel physically. Even if we're right - 110 percent right - we really don't win. What would happen if the pouter just said what was bothering him or her? Would the world end, relationships collapse, a reign of inharmony and chaos result?

A woman once told me she had very little to do with her grandchildren because she didn't care for her daughter-in-law. "I don't bother with them," she told me. The idea of not bothering to the degree that she would not get to know her grandchildren seemed extreme to me. What a high price to pay for a pout.

A well-known parable told by Jesus illustrated a situation in which someone insisted on being mad about what seemed an unfair situation to him. The parable of the lost son or the prodigal son, told in Luke 15, tells about the reaction to the return of one of two sons. The younger son had just returned home after learning some difficult lessons. A big dinner is being given in his honor, and everyone is rejoicing. Well, not quite everyone.

The older brother is upset, and the father seeks him out and asks him why he's not joining them. The older son has been outside, sulking, because he resents this party. The father, who has just lovingly embraced the son who strayed, also expresses his unconditional love to the older son, tenderly explaining that he, too, is precious in his sight. The father also tenderly explains that it is almost as if this dear child, the younger brother, had been dead and is now alive.

Anyone who has borne the pain of sin's own punishment knows it's a difficult journey. The older son has never had to go through this great a trial, and he can be grateful, not resentful.

Indulging in anger or resentment can't separate God's love from us, but it may cause us to feel separated from Him - lonely, bitter, and misunderstood. Pouters have a right to revise this routine. We can be the first to crack a smile, extend a hand, a letter, a loving thought. Forgiveness and kindness, even when met with opposition or adversity, are the oil that gets the wheel of healing rolling.

Happiness is spiritual,

born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot

exist alone, but requires

all mankind to share it.

Mary Baker Eddy

(founder of the Monitor)

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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