A letter to my son as he turns eighteen

This letter to my son on his 18th birthday is just one step I can take to foster his transition to becoming a true man.

Many men have difficulty helping their son’s transition into manhood and some find themselves disappointed to see that their sons are not handling it well.  I’ll leave this post with minimal introduction – it is a copy of a letter I wrote for my son on his 18th birthday as part of an effort to help my own son in this transitional time (posted with his permission).


It’s hard to believe you are turning eighteen.  It has been an incredible pleasure to watch you grow up. I can tell you that it has been hard sometimes to see you struggle and get hurt, but really cool to watch you do well.  I sometimes think you have had more victories in your life than you know.  There are many times when I’ve seen you do things, like your volunteer work or just being kind and respectful to other folks, that make me dance in my heart and silently shout “Whoo-hoo! That’s my boy!”  I don’t say these out loud all the time because I don’t want to swell your head too much, and also because you’d complain about me embarrassing you.

I’ve read in a number of books that it’s important for a father to officially recognize their son as “a man” – to let him know that he has been found worthy.  On one hand I like this idea, on the other hand it has made me ponder what it really means to be a man.  At what point do you meet all the criteria?

The main criteria of being a man that I hear most often is that a man is someone who can stand alone – stand on their own two feet without having to depend on anyone.  I’ve spent plenty of time in my life feeling like I’m standing alone, and you know what?  It’s a pretty lonely place to be.  The happiest, most successful men I know, are not afraid to step out and make decisions and, more importantly, they always take full responsibility for their own choices and decisions.  These men also keep themselves well connected with close friends and family.  They have taught themselves how to open up and be transparent with their friends and they lean on them for support, friendship, & companionship.  Of course, it is important to choose these friends wisely: the friend who is the most fun at parties, may not be the right person to go to when you need to work through a challenging life issue.

While a successful man knows how to depend on his friends, co-workers, and family, that doesn’t mean that he should be dependent on them.  A real man knows how to develop a vision for his life, then, usually through hard experience, learns how to overcome his fears and doubts and strive to achieve that vision.  (Wise men also learn how to adjust their visions as they grow.)

One of the biggest challenging life issues you begin to face as you move into your adult years is the lack of cheerleading and recognition you will get.  It’s been fun watching you do so well in the various sports you’ve played, and it has been fun watching you bring home trophies and awards.  Likewise, in your schoolwork, I’ve been proud to watch you do your best (ok – I know you goof off sometimes), and to get the recognition for your efforts.  Growing up, these achievements have been recognized.

As you move into the work world, you will find that frequently your achievements are not recognized.  Many managers take the attitude that they expect excellence, and so they don’t feel any need to show appreciation when they get it from you.  Many men (and a fair number of women), are competitive and feel that giving any sort of recognition will somehow give you a leg-up on them.  It can be especially difficult when you have a boss or a customer that simply doesn’t like your style of doing things or really doesn’t have any appreciation for the work you are doing.  You will certainly face all of these situations at some point in your career.  In fact, as you get older, it is rare to have people at work celebrate your successes.

As you move forward into adulthood and move out into the world, it is essential to center your sense of happiness on something other than the feedback you will get at work.  It is important to always strive to live your life in such a way as to be proud of yourself.  This is why I’ve shared with you many times the need to always live your life with integrity.  There will be many times when you will have the opportunity to cheat and cut corners on your integrity, but the few bucks here and there that you might be able to add to your wallet will never take the place of losing your ability to be proud of yourself.

Ultimately, it is important to ground your sense of value in that fact that God made you as a wonderful and perfect person.  By perfect, I don’t mean faultless.  I think God has built into us just enough faults so that we have to learn to depend on each other: this is part of our perfection.

The college years are a time when many people start to move away from God.  This happens for a number of reasons. One is that you begin to pick up enough skills to stand on your own and you start to think that you no longer need to depend on God’s help to survive.  Another is that in college you will learn how to view the world in a logical and rational way – they teach you that there is a scientific answer for everything.  Many people lose touch with God in college simply because life is too busy to spend any time thinking about Him.  Some people push God aside because they want to party and misbehave, and they cannot allow a God into their lives that comes with all these restrictive “rules”.  Finally, as a child, although you have learned of God, you may never have known God.

I’d love to spend time talking to you about these things when you are ready.  In the meantime, I hope you understand that God has been around the block a few times.  He understands young adults – He is, in fact, the ultimately cool dad (He truly is eleven cool).  I’ve got lots of rational reasons for my faith, but ultimately, I’d have to say that there have been several times when I’ve felt God working through me and this is what has helped me to just know.  So my advice, if you can remember it, is that if you wake up one morning and find that you have drifted away and life is getting hard, reach out and find yourself a couple of Christian men who can re-introduce you to His life giving Spirit.

In this letter, I’ve shared with you that the world can be lonely and recognition starved.  I’d encourage you to let God work through you and be the kind of person who always seeks to make the world a little less lonely and recognition starved for those around you.  Instead of looking at the folks around you as competition, look for ways of helping them to succeed, look for ways of making them feel encouraged.  The truth is, over the long haul, this habit will help you to be truly successful.  People like to be around people who make them look and feel good and while many people like to be team members, not many take the time and energy to learn how to be good team builders.  Teach yourself how to encourage and uplift other folks, and you will have learned how to build a team.

A friend of mine recently pointed out a verse in the Bible, 1 Timothy 4:12 (“1 Timothy” was a letter written by the Apostle Paul to his younger disciple) that reads: Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.  As people get older, they invariably create for themselves a worldview and then they put the world into it: in other words, they come to think they have everything figured out.  You’ll meet guys in life who will share with you their view on things and usually do so with the hopes that you will start to see things their way as well and also that you will recognize how smart and wise they are (again, people crave recognition).  It is always good to listen and learn from these people, but also recognize the wisdom in Paul’s words.  It’s not good to just accept another persons world view (except your father’s of course), but rather consider it carefully and understand the reasoning behind it.  Myself, I’m starting to come to believe that the world is too complex for any of us to really comprehend so we create for ourselves worldviews that are simplified to the point that we can function in our day to day lives.  It’s good to recognize this because it helps us to be considerate of other people’s views because we know that when we judge them through the eyes of our own simplified view, we are doing them an injustice.  Don’t misunderstand my cautions here though, men need to learn from each other and need mentors in life and at work.  You just need to take responsibility for your own choices in what you will believe.

I’ve been struggling for some time trying to decide what to write in this letter, what bits of wisdom to pass on to you as you are launching your journey into manhood.  One of the reasons I wrote Essence of Wisdom for Parents was to leave a legacy of those things that I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, for my children.  There’s a lot of depth in some of those one-liners.  I hope as you get older, you give it a read every once in a while.  Through this letter, through the book, and through many of our conversations, I keep trying to find all the right things to say to help you succeed in life, but in the end, you are just going to have to do it yourself, and you know what? I think you will do pretty well.

You know that you, son, have made the job about as easy as it could be for a father.  I continue to be immensely proud of you – for what you have accomplished, but more importantly, for who you are.  You know that I have told you this before and I know that I will tell you again.  I have seen you grow into a kind, considerate, caring, industrious, and handsome young man.  (And I’m not just saying that last bit because you look like me.)

I can tell you easily that I don’t think I could be any more proud of you, or pleased with how you have grown up.  Like God, I’ve been around the block a little myself, and I know that there are probably a few things in your past that I am not aware of, but I know that’s the nature of life.  When the statue of limitations is up, I hope to have the opportunity to sit around a cup of coffee sometime and hear the stories.  Perhaps I’ll share a few of my own.

As usual, I’ve been able to find shades of gray where most others see black and white.  So let me end by clearly saying that yes, I am proud of the man you have become.  I cannot image being more excited to give this kind of stamp of approval.  I hope that as we move forward in life together, you will continue to let me share in it, because I can tell you it has been a great pleasure so far.



PS:  Learn how to hug!

Teaching your son what it means to be a real man

I went and asked my 17 year old son to tell me what he thinks it means to be a man.

One of the things I used to tell co-workers that I was mentoring is that it’s a good idea to spend half your time thinking about how to do you work, and the other half of the time actually doing it.  This was an obvious exaggeration, but I said it to make a point.   A couple of years back someone from the men’s group at my local church invited me to a series of meetings that was going to talk about how to be a better husband and father.  My first instinct was to decline, but then I remembered my own advice and realized that in recent years, I hadn’t really spent enough time learning how to be good husband or how to be a good father.

In the last meeting, one of the guys challenged me a bit by asking me: Have I been teaching my own son what a real man is?  The guy had been reading Robert Lewis’s book Raising a Modern-Day Knight: A Father’s Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood which is focused on this idea of countering cultural ideas about manhood. I’ve read through the book and while some of the teaching techniques Robert talks about don’t fit my style, the ideas in the book are great ones to ponder.  The central statement of the book is that:

“A real man rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, and leads courageously for the greater reward.”

In my own book Essence of Wisdom for Parents, I talk about the importance of having good conversations with your teens, so after being challenged by my friend, I went and asked my 17 year old son to tell me what he thinks it means to be a man.  He thought for a moment and responded:

A man is someone who is responsible for himself, but knows how to ask for help when he needs it.  A man also knows how to recognize when others are in need and helps them.  Finally, a man knows how to stand up for himself.

I then asked him if having sex with a girl makes you a man, he responded with a simple No, and looked at me as if I was crazy.

I’ve been thinking about his answers and can’t help but being proud.  However, there are some deeper principles that I will have to share with him over the next year or two.  I think I’ll add to his answer that

A real man works regularly to deepen his relationship with God.

I also think I will work to modify his last point so that he understands that

A real man knows how to stand up for himself, but only after first humbly considering the idea that he may be the one who is wrong.

Maybe I’ll also teach him that advice I had forgotten:

A real man spends half his time learning how to be a better husband, father, and neighbor – and the other half of his time living it.

So how about you?  What do you do to make sure your son’s know what it means to be a real man? What do you do to teach your daughters what it means to be real woman?

Teaching decision making to your kids: It’s much more than teaching right from wrong!

Psychologists have found that we make decisions in two primary ways: rational and heuristic. Parents need to understand how to teach to both.

“I taught them right from wrong! How could he have been so stupid?”

A question asked by parents a thousand times.  We want our kids to make great decisions, but don’t know how to get them to do it.  In my book, Essence of Wisdom for Children, I point out that teens, in particular, often make choices in unexpected ways.

The root of our problem is that we live in cultural environment very different from that in which our brains evolved.  The human brain was “designed’ to work well when we were part of small, close-knit, nomadic tribes living on the plains of the Serengeti.  Unfortunately, our decision-making environment is quite different now.

Back on the plains, we could rely on our instincts alone to teach our kids how to make decisions.  In our modern environment, though, it helps to borrow a bit from the field of cognitive psychology.

Psychologists have found that we make decisions in two primary ways.  First, there is heuristic decisions making which is gives us the ability to make quick-reaction, gut-level decisions, and then there is a more rational, slow, and deliberate decision-making process.

It is this latter type of decision-making that we use to evaluate right from wrong.  It engages the rational, outer-layer portion of the brain that is capable of thoughtfully balancing the pro’s and con’s of our choices.  As any parent may guess, it is the former type of decision-making that we use for the vast majority of our daily decisions.  Heuristic decisions are made deeply in the core of our brain and require much less energy and effort than those decisions made in the more rational, outer layers which is why make heuristic decisions so often.

In On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind’s Hard-Wired Habits, Wray Herbert introduces a number of specific heuristics wired into our heads.  The following are those that parents will most readily recognized once they understand how they work in the lives of their children:

The fluency heuristic – causes us to generally choose to continue to follow a decision previously made.

The acceptance heuristic – causes us to make decisions that will provide us with a sense of approval from others.

The familiarity heuristic – causes us to choose items or actions that are familiar to us.

Ever wonder why your young adult would ride home from a party with a drunk driver?  It may be the fluency heuristic in action.  If they had previously planned on driving home with this friend, then the brain will fight against any change of plan.

Wonder why your child would take a dare and throw rocks at a passing automobile?  It may be the acceptance heuristic in action.

Wonder why your child would ignore the “new kid” at the lunch table?  It may be the work of the familiarity heuristic.

As you come to understand that it is not simply knowledge that so affects your children’s decision making, you can release yourself from any parenting guilt you may harbor for not successfully teaching your kids right from wrong, however, you may now understand that whole new approaches to helping your child are necessary.

The key to developing a decision-training strategy is to learn to use some of these heuristics to your advantage.  Athletic coaches, police trainers, and the military have been doing this for years even if they may not understand the psychological underpinnings of what they are doing. A key strategy of working with the heuristics is to:

Teach your children to make decisions before a situation arises.

As an example of this, as I was teaching my son how to drive, I had him visualize a scenario were a dog ran out in front of him on a crowded highway.  We talked though this scenario and found that the safest course of action was to maintain control of the car and just hit the dog.  By going over this scenario several times, I was leveraging the familiarity heuristic enabling him to make this decision using the higher-speed, lower-level brain pathways.  Police trainers will tell you that in a critical situation, officers will always make decisions based on their training.

Police and military trainers use expensive simulations to mimic real-life situations as closely as possible to build in the familiarity.  This is a luxury parents rarely have; however, we can look again to science.  As it turns out, the vast majority of your brain really makes no distinction between input received from your actual five senses and input received through your imagination.  This, in fact, explains why humans have such advanced imaginations.

Imagination is the most powering decision learning tool ever utilized by human beings.

Our imagination helps us to live through life-changing situations well before we face them in the flesh.  Humans have used the imagination as a leaning tool for thousands of years.  Anthropologists will tell you that early human tribes always had their storytellers passing on the wisdom of the tribe to newer generations.  This is not just teaching the younger generation history and tribal religion.  The great storytellers activate the imagination of the other tribe members so that they can re-live the experiences of the elders, and thereby wire-up the mental heuristics so that the youth of the tribe will make the decisions needed to survive in a dangerous world.

Joshua Foer explains, in his book Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, that ancient storyteller’s use of detailed visual descriptions greatly increased their audiences memory of a the story.  These visualizations also build into the listeners mind the familiarity needed to make fast decisions when they find themselves in similar situations.

With the invention of air conditioning, television, retirement homes, and two-career households, the multi-generational tradition of storytelling is being rapidly wiped out from our societal life, and with it, an important tool in the raising of children.

This tradition is being replaced by storytelling through television and the internet, and, much to parents horror, the decision making of our youth is following the patterns that they learn from those medium.  No wonder HIV is now officially at epidemic levels in major US cities.

So as a parent, you may want to resurrect this art of storytelling, and take advantage of your kids imaginations to share life lessons.  In general, help your children to think about and make critical decisions ahead of time.

It is insufficient to simply teach your kids right from wrong.  You must do more.

Doing more can be achieved in a variety of ways.  A mentor of mine regularly told me that I haven’t met my best friend in life yet.   This simple statement helped to shake up my mental processes and now, whenever I meet someone, the first though that runs through my mind is “could he be the one?”   This simple coaching has had a powerful affect on how I interact with people.

In many ways cognitive psychology is in its infancy, and its application in child-rearing is even more so, but you can certainly start to make use of some of these basic principles even now – just use your imagination.

Do you have any good stories about how you helped your kid make the right decision ahead of time?

Rules, Principles, and Wisdom

When people live by principles, they naturally look to do what is right, when they live by rules; they naturally look to do what they can get away with.

My 7th grade daughter came to me with a homework assignment the other day.  The Road Closed Signquestion her teacher gave her was: For what principle, would you be willing to break the law?

The question made me realize that there are multiple paradigms under which we live in our society, and the paradigm within which we choose to live has a radical affect on the quality and value of our life.

When our children our young, we fill their world with rules:  Do not touch the stove, wear your bike helmet, do not talk to strangers.  These rules are good and they setup boundaries for our kids to keep them safe.  There is, however, deep within us, a driving need for freedom, a need to explore the world, to see what it has to offer us.  In short, there is, within us, a need to break the rules.

We see this in kids from a very early age.  You tell your son not to punch his sister, and he’ll whack her with a baseball bat.  “But I didn’t punch her mom!”

One of the trickiest things parents have to do is to wean their kids off rules as soon as it is practicable.  This process begins in the pre-teen years.

In my book Essence of Wisdom for Parents,I recommended that you transition from directing to steering.  This weaning is a component of the transition.

As our kids move into middle school, they become exposed to completely new ways of thought.  They have good teachers that teach them to question everything, to explore, to investigate.  School is also a place where kids learn to be accepting and respectful of other people and their way of thinking.  And of course, they have friends.  Friends who are raised under very different rules than yours.  In America today, it is common to find that your kids friends are raised within a different culture altogether.

As your children come to realize that the rules are completely different in different households, they will use the great analytical skills they have learned in school to deduce that rules are arbitrary.  If you have taught them that being good implies following the household rules, then how do they reconcile this with the fact that other households have different rules?  They will reason to themselves: “Does this mean the other kids aren’t good because they don’t know my rules?  Of course not!  My friends are good!” It can only mean that there are no absolutes when it comes to rules.  There is no way to define good or bad by the rules if the rules are different for different people.

Once people come to this conclusion, they then become free to indulge their selfish desires by looking for ways to skirt the rules.  Life is no longer about being good, it’s about not getting caught.

If left unchecked, these attitudes can persist into adulthood. They manifest themselves in little ways and big ways.  I have seen people saunter across a busy parking lot, holding up traffic because they have a right to the parking lot just like everyone else.  I have seen people protesting gay marriage at a service member’s funeral, because the law says they can do it.  And of course, many of us have met people who cheat on their taxes with inflated deductions or underreported income because they think that they won’t get caught.

It’s interesting to note in the first few chapters of the Bible, Adam and Eve had a great relationship with God, but Satan came around and tricked Eve into a rule-based paradigm.  Once Eve stopped living by principles and instead started living by rules, it was only a matter of time before she would ruin her relationships.

Living in the rule-based paradigm can be a miserable, selfish place to be and none of us wishes it on any of our children.  Therefore,

A good parent works to transform their children’s worldview from one that is rule-based to one that is principle based.

This involves upping the conversation level a bit, talking through your own life’s decisions with your kids.  In my house, we talk about caring for people.  If the kids come home and start talking about the mean kid at school, then I am going to ask them if this kid has any truly good friends.  When the answer is no, I’m going to ask them how would they feel if they didn’t have any good friends, don’t you think you might be mean too sometimes?

The biggest principle that I want my kids to understand is that we are relational creatures that have a need to be loved and a responsibility to love others, even, and maybe especially, when they do not seem to deserve it – and we will get the most enjoyment from life when we do this.

I know that if they understand this principle, then they will not need to have the rules “no hitting”, “no name calling”, “no stealing”, etc.  They will instead look for ways of sharing a compliment, or even a simple smile towards that mean kid at school.

When people live by principles, they naturally look to do what is right, when they live by rules; they naturally look to do what they can get away with.

The next difficult step, after instilling some of these principles, is the application of them.  There is so much that we, as adults, take for granted because of our experiences.  We know that telling someone that their haircut looks funny can really damage a friendship.  Kids do not necessary know this.  They do not have the experience to understand the impact that their words and actions will have on themselves and others.

Therefore, it is important to let them see how you think, let them see how you work to predict the consequences of your actions.  You must teach them that

Wisdom is taking the time to predict the consequences of your choices.

Wisdom, fortunately, is something that you can teach.  There are really two ways to gain wisdom: you can gain it from your own experiences, or you can gain it from others.  All you have to do is teach your kids to pay attention.

When I read an article about a young teen who’s been in a car accident, I share it with my children or post it on the fridge.

I’ve also talked with my kids about the “it won’t happen to me” syndrome, helping them to understand that this is a natural, but unfounded line of thinking.

Are these great conversations with my teens?  You must be kidding.  I get grunted at like all the other parents.  But as my teens have progressed from middle school into high school, our conversations aren’t about rules anymore.  Instead, they have a whole lot more open-ended questions.  I don’t order them to do their homework.  Now I simply ask them, if they have budgeted time to finish it if they go out.  The answer to me is always “yes”, but they live the consequences of staying up late to finish it on Sunday night. Of course

Most wisdom seems to be accumulated through pain.

One final thought to share with your children is to not be ashamed of or discouraged by the pains of life.  It is, in fact truly part of the great experience.  If we are never duped by a cheat, how could we fully appreciate a person with integrity? If we never experienced great pain, we would likely never recognize great joy.

How about, care to share a time that found yourself caught between principals and rules?  Ever find yourself “working the system” while ignoring your principals?



Anger – the morphine of emotions

Anger is the morphine of emotions, serving as an unhealthy way to avoid pain. Dealing with frustrations in a healthy way is how to let go of anger and depression.

Anger, like all human emotions, is natural and has a purpose and place in life.  An outburst of anger is the quickest way of communicating to your loved ones that you have been hurt.  There is an old joke that says the best way to remember your wife’s birthday is to forget it once – her anger will effectively communicate that she has been hurt by your thoughtlessness.

In today’s society though, many people have developed a very unhealthy lifestyle of anger – sometimes using it as a primary means of communicating. The reason for this is that we do not feel the sting of emotional pain as long as we are holding onto our anger.

Anger is the morphine of emotions.

In our society, we have not been raised to handle anger in a healthy way and we often do not fully understand the source of our anger.

Anger is an outgrowth of frustration and, besides numbing our pain, serves as a means to gain control of a situation – often by attempting to bully those around us.  Anger’s sister emotion is depression which is what we experience when we no longer have any hope of regaining control of our circumstances.

Allowing ourselves to unleash our anger is destructive to our relationships.  Usually the targets of our anger are the few people in the world that actually know us well and love us the most: our husbands and wives, our children, our parents.  These are the victims of our anger.

Allowing ourselves to suppress the anger is not healthy either.  Suppressed anger can lead to high blood pressure, hypertension, and in the end, is rarely effective in improving our relationships and circumstances.

The first step in letting go of anger is to fully understand the root cause of the frustration.

We get frustrated when people or circumstances are not in line with our expectations. Therefore, it is imperative for us to understand what our expectations in life are and why we have them.  Once we have done this, we need to educate ourselves to determine if these expectations are reasonable or if they are founded on an artificial and idealistic view of how we think the world should be.

For example, if your four-year-old child has spilled fruit juice on your white carpet after you told them to be careful you might get angry.  But was it reasonable to expect a four year old to obey your admonition?  Of course not!  That little bit of frontal lobe in their brain that controls their executive system is not really formed enough to be depended upon, their motor skills are undeveloped, a let’s face it, a four year old has the attention span of a gnat.  A reasonable parent should expect the child to forget the warning the moment the child spots a toy in the room and a reasonable parent should expect to have to buy a new carpet once their children are grown.

Often, the person that we seem to have the most difficulty with in terms of false expectations is our spouse.  Most of us have the ridiculous notion that our own experiences growing up can serve as a model and yardstick for our spouse.  We fail to understand that the environment that they were forged in was very different then that in which we were forged.

You may have grown up in a home with a strong working mom who ran the whole show.  Your spouse may have grown up in a traditional home where the father served as the family leader.  Without educating yourselves, then in this situation it is likely that the husband will be continually frustrated with his wife’s lack of trust and support, and the wife will be continually frustrated by her husband’s lack of respect.

It is sad when two people like this that are good people who actually love each other can be doomed to a life of continued anger, depression, or both – all because of erroneous expectations of life.

There are a couple of keys to re-aligning your expectations with reality.  These are:

Spent time with well-grounded people in similar family circumstances.

This can be a men’s or women’s small group in church or a group of ladies who get together at play dates with their kids.  As you listen to the diversity of points of view, you can begin to learn that your own way of looking at the world isn’t as universal as you may have thought.  It is vitally important to choose your small group of friends properly – if they do not seem to have a loving and caring spirit, then choose a different group.

Read books on parenting, marriage, or whatever topic frustrates you the most.

Parenting books can help you understand child development and what to expect from your child at different ages.  Marriage books help you understand the different types of personalities, and in particular, how the brain of the opposite sex works.  One of the big motivations for my book Essence of Wisdom for Parents was to help set more healthy expectations for parents and couples and through this, to bring a little more joy and peace into some households.

A caution here:  there is a whole media industry designed to satisfy the relational and emotional needs of people, particularly women:  this includes daytime talk shows, and people-oriented magazines.  This media source is not designed to set healthy expectations of life and, but rather is designed to serve as a surrogate for healthy real-life relationships.  Its fine for a little light entertainment, but it will not be a positive contribution to your development.

Find time to sit and talk peaceably with those that get you angry.

Talk about your frustrations and expectations.  If your expectations do not match, then it is a fair bet that the other person in the relationship is harboring feelings of anger or depression as well.  This means that they need help also.  Note that I am using the word talk here loosely.  If tensions have been building for any length of time, then it may be best to intersperse your initial conversations with some leading questions and then carefully listen to what they are saying.  Give yourself a day or two to think about what they have said before responding.

The goal of each of these three keys is to help you grow personally.  A big component of what we term personal growth, is our self-education on the complex realities of the world and the people that live in it so that we develop more realistic expectations.  The human brain was designed to be a continuous learning machine.  If we aren’t doing that then we aren’t using our brain’s properly.  For some reason, we forget to keep learning.  We think that our school years were the one time in life when we were supposed to learn.  The truth is, our school years were the time in life when we were supposed to learn how to learn.

The second step in letting go of anger is to realize that the people or circumstances around us are not supposed to be perfect.

As you talk with friends, read, and study, you will come to find that God did not promise an easy life for anyone and that everyone has flaws, insecurities, and selfish impulses.  Your anger means that you want either God or other people to care more for you in your life.  However, as you grow, you will realize that these other people need help with their issues as well.  This is an opportunity for you.

Taking your eyes off yourself and putting them on other’s needs is the healthy way to alleviate pain.

Helping others to grow in the same manner in which you are growing will help them to get over the pain of their frustrations, and, over time, will help to heal your relationship as it begins to grow again on a more realistic soil bed.

Helping others does not mean that you are their doormat. You do not need to enable their anger by serving as a human punching bag.  What it does mean, though, is that you need to look behind their angry frustrated exterior to find and encourage the good things that are hiding within.  Transforming yourself from an angry warrior to a patient, educated, loving, encourager will go a long way towards developing that sense of idealistic happiness that we all desire.