Think before you speak

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)

“Choosing a gentle reply doesn’t mean you’re weak; it actually means you possess a rare and godly strength.” (Lysa TerKeurst, “Unglued“)

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!)

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24 thoughts on “Think before you speak

  1. I’ve never really associated a reaction as mostly negative more as what is done in the moment. And a response as something that is more thought about first. For instance a can react to a surprise by crying, jumping, etc.

    I love how you always make me think.

    ❤ Catherine

    1. Glad I make you think!
      Thanks for always taking the time to read my posts and comment.
      Love lots,
      Nicki

  2. What a great reflection on the value of choice in our response to a specific incident, interaction…the list goes on. I had never considered that a reaction is truly derived from emotions and allowing those negative emotions to predominate our thinking in such a way that our behavior becomes a direct reflection of that emotion. Negative feelings often preclude or are tied into negative thoughts and out of those is birthed a negative reaction. Thank you for reflecting so candidly on the relationship in your own life. It reminded me that I need to be alert to those negative thoughts and feelings so that I can choose a response based on God’s love and truth rather than the “ickiness” that may be temporary even if it feels sooo real at the moment. Love you girl for your heart and for your honesty. Keep on writing!!!

  3. Nicki,
    Love you friend and I love your blog post today! Thank you so much for sharing it on the blog hop.

    It’s so true that we have a choice. But it’s not easy in the heat of a raw emotion! It is my prayer that I would think before I speak. It takes practice and I am so much better with this than I used to be, especially with my kids and husband 🙂

    Love you!

  4. We do have choices! I used to get so bogged down thinking I had to “be honest” with my feelings, which made me think I really didn’t have a choice but to spew my anger and have negative reactions. It can work the other way, with positive responses, too, I believe. When we are not making the choice to respond in a healthy way, we can come across insincere or fake in our efforts to compliment or encourage someone. I have fallen into this trap & my intentions have been scewed b/c I wasn’t acting with ‘soul integrity’. Thank you for sharing this great message!

    1. Hi Sherri,
      I also used to think that “being honest” about my feelings was the best…until I realized I forgot to put any ‘filter’ on what I was saying! What I spewed forth wasn’t ‘honest’, it was just the overflow of garbage from my heart, spoken out in the heat of the moment.

      And I love your insight about soul integrity and making sure we are not insincere or fake when we compliment someone. That’s a very good point.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog – I really appreciate it.

      God bless
      x

  5. Responding to your comment you made on my blog. This is Erin, the RN in Honduras. Thank you so much for your sweet words! and I LOVE your thoughts you wrote on your blog. Very well spoken and oh so true! Thanks girl and prayers your way! Thanks again for your sweet words! Erin

  6. Aw, Nicki, girl! You give me much to ponder. I’ve always been a Stuffer who stuffs so deep down that I can never trust myself to allow any reply to surface. So those hurts and aches fermented and turned my heart toxic, to myself, and those I used to call ‘friend’. God’s been working on my heart, and you’ve helped me grasp a new understanding… I have 3 options to choose between, I can choose to respond, or react, or I can continue to stuff so deep down that there will never be any resolution. So, like you, I’m making a new choice, “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 will help me stop allowing old hurts to fester.
    Blessings, ❤
    Karen

    1. Karen I am SO proud of you! No more stuffing. No more reacting. Just gentle replies.
      So glad my blog post helped you see what God has already been working on in your life.
      Love you!

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