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The Mole Hill into Mountain Trap

I experienced an epiphany the other day about how easy it is for us, for me, to fall into the trap of making mountains out of mole hills, a very human tendency.

Margaret and I were having a small disagreement. At the end of our discussion, I suggested she was making a mountain out of a mole hill. My epiphany occurred after I kept ruminating over how she had unjustly, in my mind, made a mountain out of a mole hill, and discovered I was making a mountain out of mole hill by not letting it go.

The earliest recorded use of this phrase dates from 1548. But I'm sure people have been making mountains out of mole hills since the beginning of human history. The idiom is a metaphor for someone overreacting negatively to something. And that's exactly what I did.

We Keep Piling on the "Dirt."

How do we make a mountain out of a molehill? We make a mountain out of a molehill by moving "dirt" from one place to another and watching it pile up. We consciously or unconsciously look into the past or even the present to find parts for our lives we've ignored or buried in some way. We consciously or unconsciously dig them up, and "dump" them on the emotional pile we're building around a present issue. Minor issues, molehills, become larger and larger, and more bothersome and even intimidating.

Here are 10 tips to try when you start piling negativity onto a mole hill, turning it into an emotional mountain.

  • Stop. Pause. Put the brakes on the thoughts so they won't keep swirling around in your head. Look at how you're making something bigger than it needs to be.

  • Breathe. Take deep breathes. Let the emotions attached to the thoughts and emotions deflate. As you breathe, you will metaphorically, blow away some of the dirt.

  • Rethink and replace. Examine the occasion that's at hand and look at it from another angle, a more positive one. The emotional "dirt" may be hiding an unexpected opportunity to show understanding, empathy, and love.

  • Beware. Recognize when you adopt all-or-nothing thinking that doesn't allow compromise, or catastrophic thinking that assumes the world will end if you are wrong or don't get your way.

  • Ask if winning important. Having a competitive spirit can be a good thing. But when the "win at all costs" attitude creeps into your thinking and into your relationships, it's time to learn how to learn how to throw in the towel, and let it go.

  • See the humor. If given the luxury of even a few seconds to calm down, breathe, and rethink what's going on, don't be surprised if you laugh, or at least smile over your overreaction.

  • Change your perspective. Realize you are wasting time and emotional energy over something that really doesn't matter in life's big picture. It really isn't a matter of life and death, even though your ego may see it that way.

  • Walk away from yourself. When we make a mountain out of molehill, it's often because we are making ourselves the center of the universe. Take a step back from yourself. If it's a relationship issue, look at things from the other's perspective.

  • Be grateful. If you've adopted a "poor-me" attitude, look around you and see what other people have to deal with in their lives.

  • Seek support. If you have trouble kicking the habit if making mountains out of molehills, you might consider seeking professional help, or even confide in a close friend who will listen and encourage you.

Finally, take the eternal view. Realize what you're stressing over really doesn't matter in the big picture, the eternal picture God sees. What does matter, is how you handle it. Get God involved. Turn to him when you begin making a mountain out of mole hill. Turn to him when you are ready to escape from the mole hill to mountain trap.

In God's Words

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)

Also read: Micah 6:8, Ephesians 4:31-32, Colossians 3:12

In Your Words

  • Recall a time when you found yourself making a mountain out of a mole hill. Did you realize you were doing it, or did someone point it out to you? What was your reaction?

  • The next time you find yourself doing it, stop and consider the mental and emotional factors making you act that way. Try using one of the tips listed above. Use a different one each time to see which one works best for you.

  • When you believe someone is making a mountain out of a mole hill in a conversation you may be having, observe the dynamics of the conversation rather than reacting negatively.

In the Words of Others

"An exaggeration is a truth that has lost its temper." Kahlil Gibran

"I can imagine no more successful and productive form of manufacture than that of making mountains out of molehills." G.K. Chesterton

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