The walls were marsh green – the kind of shade that would not draw attention to itself unless one had nothing else to glare at. The hurdle seemed to me to span upward to an unreachable height. A little window with a narrow shelf extending back into the small room to cover the cinder block wall was cluttered with bottles – probably chemicals for cleaning. If I could just jump that high!
This little washroom at the back of my first-grade classroom was where I waited for feedback to be distributed for behaviors that I was sure were perfectly innocent. Mrs. Irene, my teacher, seemed to bide her time before carrying out the punishment. The confining wait was apparently worse than the discipline since I cannot remember the outcome. But the nightmarish chastisement of an unreachable window cut into a marsh green fortification, frustrated me to the extent that the image is deeply engraved into the raw nerves of my brain.
Corrective evaluations are necessary for our development, but mercy colors every sincere act of positive feedback when that is what is needed. Years ago, I read in a book on paranoia that the ailment is accentuated by the lack of the feedback that would extinguish the unfounded fears. To have anxiety is to wrestle with the lack of good information. When fear rises up into the shoulders bringing tension to the muscles in the neck and the cause of it is not real – just imagined – then accurate feedback is a warm salve that penetrates beneath the thin skin. It brings relief. The assurance reveals the absence of a threat. To hold it back is an act of negligence.
Actually, the most accessible source of feedback is much more available. You have the resource within you to dispute the unknown possibility as just that – an unknown future. You can tell yourself that it is not real. It is unreal because it does not exist. You can list the other possibilities — possibilities that will not inflict the fear. If the worst possibility does come into existence, then convince yourself that you can choose at that time to fear it if necessary for your survival; but it is only a figment of the imagination until then. There is nothing to fear now. Like in the book I used to read to my children, it is an imaginary monster fancied to be hiding in the closet. It has no power. It cannot destroy you. To hold this critical feedback back – to withhold it from myself – is an act of negligence. It is self-destructive.
Instead, talk yourself into understanding that there are many other possibilities on the horizon. Be specific with yourself. List them. It will take a while to learn that you can succeed in this; but it will be sweet to your soul and healing to your bones (Proverbs 16:24). It is hard to imagine that friends would withhold encouraging words and essential information; but it is unbelievable that I would withhold them from myself. If the mind of the wise can instruct his mouth so that he will not say things best unsaid, then I can instruct my mind by disputing unfounded fears.
The heart of the wise instructs his mouth. And adds persuasiveness to his lips. Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:23-24 NASB