Cold Shoulder / Silent Treatment

Giving the lens the cold shoulder

I know how to give the most vicious, wicked “cold shoulder” and “silent treatment” (CS/ST). I activate CS/ST when someone does something to upset me. Sometimes, the people on the receiving end are caught off guard because they have no clue why I am upset with them. This bewilderment makes CS/ST especially effective in its caustic damage. Also, CS/ST makes me feel powerful. I indulge in a crazed, cruel pleasure in hurting people.

The above paragraph is a confession. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). I’m confessing to you and every person with access to the World Wide Web how malicious I have been and still can be.


I have many job titles: teacher, editor, budget manager, house cleaner. Chauffeur is one of my favorite titles. I don’t consider driving my sons to their various activities a tedious chore but a pleasure. I actually like taking them to art school or the library or track practice.

“Don’t worry if practice runs late,” I tell my son. “I always have a book with me, so I’ll read in the car.” I have even dropped him off at an hour-long event and stayed there, taking advantage of a full hour of reading or writing time, instead of going home.

But in one case, I gave him 12:15 as a firm pick-up time. He misunderstood and thought I meant I’d be there at 12:15 but, as in other cases, would read a book and wait if he ran late.

Not only did I have no book, but my other son was with me, and we had other errands to run in a short time. At 12:45, after waiting and working myself up to a fuming (but silent) rage, I went into the building to get him.

He had no idea.

I activated my CS/ST at full throttle.

He tried pleasantly chatting about his time with the teachers at the event. I answered curtly: “Oh.”

We went to drop off recycles. I opened the door to get the recycles out of the trunk, and he said, “Do you want me to help?”

I pretended not to hear him and shut the car door without reply. Silent treatment. Caustic.

Next stop: Goodwill, to discard unwanted books and clothes. The same thing happened there: “Should I get out and help?” he asked.

Cold shoulder. Icy silence.

Final stop: pick up Dad after his soccer game at the park. The game was not yet over when we arrived, so the poor kid was trapped in close quarters with his mother emanating shock waves of malice. I am an expert in CS/ST tactics.

How could I have been so cruel to my own child? If he were two or three years old instead of a high school senior, he would have been traumatized and in need of counseling. Not until hours later did I explain why I was angry. Not until days later did I finally apologize and repent.

When my husband and I married, we spoke our own vows in addition to the traditional ones (for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health). One of our custom vows: “To be honest and open with one another in an attitude of love and humility.”

In other words, don’t hold grudges. Talk it through instead.

Ann Kroeker recently offered her readers 6 Questions to Ask Yourself. Question #3 is “How do I need to change?”

I need to change by shedding my CS/ST habit and the deranged satisfaction I get from the “power” it gives me. There is far more power in love and humility.

What is the opposite of Cold Shoulder? Leaning toward the person in conflict. Pressing past cruelty’s false sense of superiority and control. Asking myself, as a friend advised, “What’s really important here?” Putting the relationship before my selfishness.

What is the opposite of Silent Treatment? Quick communication about what’s bothering me. Being honest and open, with an attitude of love and humility.

God, help me to change.


Click to tweet: There is far more power in love and humility.

For The High Calling community writing theme: Reconciliation at Work. UPDATE: This post was featured at The High Calling.

Also, don’t miss Glynn Young’s perspective on Change at The High Calling.

Photo credit: Juhan Sonin via Flickr Creative Commons


Living with Headaches

Lately, my life has been one long headache.

I’m not talking about the figurative “headaches” of stress or inconveniences but actual, physiological headaches. My migraines began at about age ten, and I normally had them about once a year. Now I seem to have a “new normal” (to borrow a phrase from my friend Beth). In the past several months I’ve had several migraines.

I thought I had migraine management down, like a standard fire-drill procedure or a recipe that always works. As soon as I felt one coming on, I’d quickly drink two mugs of coffee (caffeine), eat two eggs (protein), head down to the cool, dark basement, and lie down. I would usually fall asleep, and two to four hours later—voila!—the migraine was over.

Last month, the standard formula did not work. I had a migraine for more than ten hours. It was enough to worry and even scare me.

A few days later we had dinner guests whose daughter also suffered from migraines. They had been tracking, researching, and trying new things (like dietary changes). The current strategy: no dairy or gluten. “She recently had a migraine that lasted thirty-two days,” the mother explained.

I thought, what’s my ten hours compared to her thirty-two days? What would I do—what kind of Christ-follower would I be—if my migraines escalated to that point?

Last week I was sick for two days with something else. I minimized my tasks, doing only what I considered highest priority. After putting lunch on the table, I went to bed. A few hours later I put dinner on the table, then went to bed. Under these circumstances I cannot teach Bible studies, teach home school, make and deliver a meal, or exercise. Migraines keep me from singing, attending worship services, and (certainly!) playing drums.

Those two days were not “normal life.” Being sick more often has pushed me into wondering, and I did wonder. What if my health pattern changed, and sick days outnumbered the healthy days? What should be my response? I’m still pondering that and asking the Lord for insight. So far I know I would want to be one for whom the joy of the Lord is obviously my strength. I would want to retain and even grow godly character traits like peace, love, and selflessness. I would have to learn now to praise God in ongoing pain. I would have to give up serving Him in the ways that I’m used to.

For the most part, I don’t know. Yet I do know that, whatever the circumstance, His purposes and desires for me still stand. Though I don’t have the answers yet, I will continue to:

“Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you shall find rest for your souls.”

(Jeremiah 6:16)

(This week Bonnie Gray asks, “What new things are you learning in your relationship with Jesus?” Visit Bonnie on Thursday (click on the Faith Barista badge below) to read more posts addressing her question.)