We’re off to Memphis, TN for the weekend to watch Ethan, my 15 year-old son, participate in a cheer competition. Then, on Monday we head out to Gatlinburg for a 5-day family trip.

Traveling along with us are Nancy & Adam. Nancy is Ethan’s biological grandmother, and the mother of Adam…who turns 19 years old on day 2 of our trip.

Headed into our road trip I already have some anger building up towards my kids that I’m unaware of… until “my ugly side” begins to surface.

My anger is mainly due to the general messiness and bad attitude of my three kids over the last few days. This is an insight I have after the fact, not in the moment.

Joey, my 13 year-old gives me some attitude on the road trip, and I finally crack. I get so frustrated at him that I squirt him water from the bottle in my hand. Unfortunately, I soak the other two next to him, only getting Joey a little wet.


The rest of the road trip I’m generally in a bad mood – snapping at the kids and being short-tempered.

When we arrive in Memphis it’s cold. Joey wants to put on a jacket, warmer shoes, and some pants, but his luggage is packed in the back of the SUV under a bunch of stuff.

I say no.

Jena, my wife, gives me a look that tells me to chill out (thank God for her…seriously). She overrules my decision and allows him to get on some warm clothes. I whine and complain.

At dinner, Jena gives me a pep talk telling me to chill out. I eventually calm down.

I allowed my ugly side to surface.

Yes, I had a right to be angry. However, I had a choice in how I responded to the situation. I chose to let my ugly side surface rather than handling the situation in a healthy way.

You have an ugly side too. It’s that part of yourself you’re not proud of. It’s where your weaknesses hide under the surface. 

It might be anger, lust, greed, depression, busyness, etc.

You too have a choice to make when confronted with your ugly side. You have the power to let it surface, hurting yourself or those around you.

You also have the choice to respond in a healthy way to the situation.

I find the following methods are helpful for me, and maybe they’ll work for you too.

#1 – Recognize your ugly side is surfacing.

The first step is recognizing what your ugly self is.

Most of the time you simply react to a particular situation without thinking about it. You don’t think. It’s a knee-jerk reaction.

In my case, Jena helped me see that I was being a jerk.

That’s often the case. Those around us usually recognize our ugly self before we do.

#2 – Break the pattern.

What you focus on expands.

If you’re angry, you become angrier. If you’re sad, you become sadder. If you’re stressed, you become more stressed.

Do something to break the negative pattern.

In my case, I took a few deep breaths and went for a walk alone to the bathroom. I was also able to calm down over a nice dinner with the family.

I apologized to Joey for how I reacted to the situation and we had an enjoyable conversation at dinner.

#3 – Take some time to reflect.

Afterwards, it is helpful to take a timeout and reflect on what happened.

Ask yourself why you acted the way you did. Look for what was going on underneath the surface.

This is a helpful step to becoming self-aware. You’ll often discover the root of the problem, which you can then address.

Most people are too busy to take the time to reflect. They continue the negative pattern over and over again.

Don’t be like most people.

The next morning I woke up before the rest of the family. I grabbed some coffee at a nearby café and walked around downtown Memphis.

I took the opportunity to reflect on the situation. I realized the root of the problem was that I was aggravated at the kids over the last few days due to their attitude and general state of messiness.

I also realized that I had a choice in how I responded to Joey the day before. I could have chosen a different path.

Those insights helped me to move forward, ready to choose the right response next time; ready to keep a good attitude regardless of my kids’ behavior.

#4 – Ask God’s help.

Many of you reading this blog post believe in God, but some of you might not. If you don’t, I respect your viewpoint. I am in no way trying to preach to you or push my agenda.

I simply believe that God is there ready and willing to help you through life – especially when coming face to face with your ugly side.

God wants to mold and shape your character. Ask him to give you the power and strength to choose the right way to respond. I believe he’ll show up.

The good news is that most of the ride up to Memphis was quite enjoyable.

We had designated time the kids were unplugged from all technology.

During those times, we played games together and bonded as a family.

I was reminded how much I do enjoy the company of my family, and how awesome my kids really are!


  • Rosa Hernandez
    5 years ago

    I just saw my ugly side this weekend. This was so helpful to realize that we all have an ugly side. We just need to know how to deal with it. Have a blest day. Thanks,

  • Mabel Lam
    5 years ago

    It is so good to be reminded that God’s unconditional love is real. He knows our flaws. Only in Him we are able to humble ourselves to accept feedbacks and say sorry when we must. Especially to our children.
    Thank you for this sharing.


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