Respond: 1. To say or do something in response to something that has been said or done. 2. To answer in reply.
React: 1. To act with hostility, opposition, or a contrary course of action. 2. To act in a reverse way.
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” (Abraham Lincoln)
“A soft, gentle response turns away wrath and soothes angry feelings, but harsh words from a sharp tongue kindles a fire, stirs up anger and makes tempers flare.” (Proverbs 15:1)
This week as part of Melissa Taylor’s Online Bible Study I’ve been reading Chapters 5 and 6 of Lysa’s book and unpacking what type of unglued person I am.
Am I an exploder? Am I a stuffer?
Do I act differently in different circumstances? And with different people?
I’ve figured out that I’m a stuffer who stuffs (“I’m fine“) until there’s no more room in my head and heart and then I explode. But I quickly end up in the proverbial corner, in tears, shaming myself for not having more control over my emotions. And admonishing myself (again) for not thinking before I speak.
In order for me to be able to handle my emotions and my “unglued” moments more appropriately, I have to make a choice. I have to choose whether to explode or not. I have to choose whether to stuff things down. Or not.
I have a choice.
I can choose to shame myself for my outbursts (“why, why, why, why, WHY?” or I can choose to blame others (It’s your fault I exploded!).
I can choose to build barriers and walls of protection around me (no-one’s going to get close enough to hurt me again) or I can choose to collect rocks of retaliation ready to throw at unsuspecting
targets people (you hurt me so now I’m going to hurt you.)
I get to make the choice! When I reply I can choose whether I respond or whether I react.
Generally speaking, it is accepted that a reaction is a negative response to a stimuli. An emotional ‘loss of control’. My reactions, guided by my raw emotions, usually see me diving head-first into a situation just so I can “get to the bottom of it”. I usually end up with a large bruise on my forehead from where I landed “smack-bang” into someone. And all my reaction has done is make the other person feel awkward, stupid, uncomfortable, wrong and intimidated. EVEN WHEN THAT’S NOT MY INTENTION. (Sorry for all my unglued reactions in the past. Really, I’m very sorry.)
I can see now how just one small unglued reaction can ruin everything in a heartbeat. All because I didn’t choose to remember the “think before you speak” rule. Just one small unglued reaction can create a hostile environment in which everyone, me included, feels edgy and tense. And, depending on the severity of my reaction, I may have irreconcilably damaged that relationship.
It’s not to say that my initial reaction to something or someone is entirely wrong. In fact, I’m told it’s completely normal because my brain is hardwired this way (by God) to react to emotional situations without thinking! When the brain is emotionally charged and fired up about something, it literally springs into action and reacts without thinking. However, allowing my brain to fire up and react without thinking is NOT how it always has to be! Because God has given me a choice. React or respond. React or respond.
If I choose to respond (remembering the “power of the pause” and the “think before you speak” rules) the outcome can be so much different.
The truth is this:
No-one can make me angry – I must choose to react in anger.
No-one has the power to say or do something that might hurt me or insult me or offend me – but I can choose whether to take on that offense and be insulted and hurt.
I have a choice about whether I respond to a stimuli or situation or whether I react to it. No matter how I feel, I have a choice how I will reply. In the past I have usually reacted. And I’m not proud of that. I have forgotten time and time again to think before I speak. So now I’m going to try something new. I’m going to choose a gentle reply because the Bible tells me this will soothe angry feelings and stop angry tempers from flaring (and I’m talking about my own!)