Off the top of my head I can think of three things I have never said and will never say:
- “Denise, I’m worried that our son is working too hard.”
- “Denise, I don’t want any meat on my pizza.”
- “Denise, you better stop pushing my buttons.”
The first two unspeakable utterances are fairly obvious. The last one will take some explaining. We’ve all heard someone (or ourselves) evoke the button pushing idiom. It’s a semi-rich metaphor implying that someone has intentionally and predictably activated a negative response in us. The statement is both an accusation and a warning. We all know what it means. But I have some problems with the validity of the whole interpersonal button pushing concept. In this Mission Fortnight let’s take a look at the fallacies of this well-worn saying:
Button Fallacy #1. “You’re pushing my buttons” assumes that humans have obvious and recognizable trigger points that create automatic feelings of annoyance. Trust me: There is nothing obvious about anybody’s happy or unhappy responses. I sort out people’s feelings and behaviors for a living and the motivations of our hearts are not that easily discerned. So, the offsetting truth for Button Fallacy #1 is: “If you feel your buttons being pushed, it isn’t because anybody got a good close look at your internal keyboard. The buttons and the sequence for pushing them is not known to anyone but you. And I am seriously leery of your level of self-awareness in this domain.”
Button Fallacy #2. This is a hard one for many people to accept so prepare yourself for a shock. People are not investing as much attention in your emotions as you may think. The whole button pushing concept implies that someone sees your buttons (refer to Button Fallacy #1) and then are actually motivated to push them. Sorry to say that even the people who care about you most (or least) are just not thinking about you that much. They are thinking about themselves as much as you are thinking about yourself. It takes a lot concentration and energy to find and strategically push illusive emotional buttons. Most people reserve that kind of effort for their own interests.
Button Fallacy #3. The heart and soul of the button push is blaming someone else for your feelings. If others are programming into your spirit inescapable responses, you have no responsibility for how you respond. Sorry. You are totally responsible for how you respond. People don’t make you feel annoyed. Your beliefs about their words, actions or attitudes make you annoyed. As much as I would love to hold others responsible for my aggravation, I cannot honestly dump all that liability on them. Even my pet peeves like lateness and missionaries in high-water pants do not cause my grumpy feelings. My beliefs about those travesties do. So, I need to assume ownership of my beliefs and weigh them against God’s beliefs as revealed in His Word. It’s all part of a larger method of taking every thought captive to make them obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
So, Denise has never heard me evoke the button pushing warning and Lord willing, never will. She’ll just have to settle for hearing me say, “Your behavior has activated an irrational and probably indefensible belief stored deep in my soul. Excuse me while I challenge my thinking before giving an ill-advised response I will regret later.” She loves it when I say stuff like that.
Well, shoot…it is the fortnight before Christmas. Enjoy it without feeling unnecessarily annoyed.