We can’t control the events that occur in everyday life, and there are times where there maybe little we can do about our circumstances, but there is one thing we do have control over – our choices. One of these is what we choose to do in potential conflict situations. We all face these, every single day, don’t we?
That annoying person in work. That irritating woman who skips the queue in the supermarket with her overflowing trolley – and all you have is one loaf of bread! Grrrrr!
Will you react, or will you respond?
The two may sound the same, but actually they’re vastly different.
I love the way The Message says it:
“Don’t be quick to fly off the handle. Anger boomerangs. You can spot a fool by the lumps on his head.” Ecclesiastes 7:9
Some of the differences between reaction and response:
A reaction is usually quick, without thought, often tense or even angry.
A response is measured, calm, thought out, calm, and usually gentle and non-threatening.
A reaction provokes more reactions – and fast tracks into unnecessary and prolonged periods of disagreement and unhappiness, with nothing accomplished.
A response promotes discussion that leads to quick resolution and healing.
Reaction is emotion-filled. Response removes heightened emotions.
The Opportunity For Choice.
Someone at church, in your workplace or a family member says something that triggers an emotion in you. It could be an innocent, throwaway comment or a direct verbal attack on you. Suddenly you have that split second choice; do I react or do I respond?
Choice 1. React:
“Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.”
1 Corinthians 13:3 “Love doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others….”
(I confess I’ve done this myself many a time) The person making this choice, and it is a choice, immediately goes into reply mode, firing off a tirade of words, or, just as bad, goes into silent treatment mode, letting the other person know they’ve definitely overstepped the mark. Reaction, without thinking leads to ultimate damage.
Choice 2. Respond:
“Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.” Proverbs 29:11
The person who is responding is like someone who types their reaction in an email but never actually never sends it. It isn’t that they don’t feel the emotion, its that they’re responding in Holy Spirit self control (a fruit of the Spirit that we all have the capacity to develop) They might go for a little walk – temporally remove themselves from the heat of the moment to think consider an appropriate response, and then wait to verbalise their response when emotions have died down on both sides.
See also: Proverbs 10:19
“The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words”.
“A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.”
Proverbs 15:18 “Hot tempers start fights; a calm, cool spirit keeps the peace”
My prayer for myself today is that I will continue learning to respond.
Lets be responders, not reactors!