Your day is going well until the unexpected happens. Your child tests your patience and disobeys. The cashier at the supermarket is taking too slow. A text message from someone irritates you. Your husband’s mistake annoys you. You feel your blood starts to boil and you need to let off some steam.
Then, you and I just snap. We yell at the kids for messing up the house and not cleaning up as they’re told. We make sarcastic remarks to the poor girl at the supermarket. We reply to a text message with ALL CAPS to show how angry we are. We roll our eyes and raise our voices at our husbands.
After the yelling, the sarcasm and the rolling of eyes, we feel bad, guilty or even ashamed for reacting that way. After some careful thought, we approach our kids and husbands and apologize for being a witch. They forgive us, of course. Then we hug, kiss and continue what we’re doing. But what about the poor stranger who received the wrath of an impatient mom? Will we go out of our way to go back and apologize? It’s quite embarrassing but we shouldn’t have “reacted” that way in the first place.
Before all the lashing out and eventual guilt trip, maybe we could have done something else. We could have “responded” to the stimulus rather than reacted. Is there a difference? Apparently, there is. After hearing this message months ago in one Sunday service I’ve realized that I have been the great Reactor or Reactress most of the time. But now that I know better, I am able to remind myself to respond and not react.
Reacting is brought about by a strong emotion, and for the scenarios mentioned, that emotion is anger. Reacting is more of an impulse, the usual thing we do when something happens to us. More often than not our emotions take control of our heads and hearts that’s why we respond negatively. We feel the need to express ourselves right away or correct the situation without even editing the words that come out of our mouths.
We think our show of strong emotion would resolve the communication problem. So what do we do? we threaten, we answer back, we yell, scream, show our disgust, throw a tantrum, storm out of the room, and the worst is we get physical (bordering on rage). The motive is to get back, defend ourselves but unfortunately hurting the other person. The motive is rooted on the belief that “I deserve better”, “I am entitled”, “I am better than you”, or the “Who do you think you are?”
I am not saying we keep quiet, be all goody-two-shoes and do nothing. What I’m saying is, instead of making nasty remarks at the cashier who is moving slow, a sales clerk, a waiter who made a mistake, maybe there is a better way of getting her/his attention and pointing at the mistakes and not humiliate the person.
When I was pregnant with our first child, I yelled at one fast food worker because my order took so long. The issue should have been resolved quietly but I chose to make a scene and not only humiliate the young lady but humiliate the very pregnant me. Most of the time, a simple miscommunication gets blown out of proportion because we choose to react.
Let me share what to do when we’re on he verge of reacting. The preacher gave four letters to live by on how to respond well, we need to P.R.A.Y.
P is for Pause. Instead of lashing back at impulse, we need to stop. Think. Take a step or steps back. The old advice of counting to 1-10 when you’re angry makes sense after all. You might say, “Are you serious? How can I pause or stop when I’m so eager to bite back?” Hold on, read some more.
R is Resist the urge to react. Once you’ve taken those steps back and paused, you will get a sense of momentary calmness. Complete the calmness by fighting the urge to express your emotions negatively. Emotions are good because it keeps us in check but using emotions to get back at others for hurting us too is useless. In the end, the real loser is you! If you can’t avoid from having a confrontation, get out of the room or the situation. Politely excuse yourself and go to corner and do the next step.
A is for Ask for Wisdom. This is the time you pray as hard and as loud as you can! I’ve tried this many times and prayer really works! Don’t think that prayer works only for healing, provision and major decisions. Prayer will also help us go through difficult situations. Ask God to bring to remembrance what you have read in his Word. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.John 14:26
He will probably remind you of these verses whenever you are about to blow it:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, James 1:19
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, Ephesians 4:26
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
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
There are a lot more verses to read, meditate and memorize. Keep them in your heart to remind you of what to do when testing comes.
Y is for Yield to the Holy Spirit. Yield means to follow or obey. The true test of the power of God’s Word is when you and I apply it to our lives. That’s when God’s word becomes alive and real to us. So, if the God’s word tells you to “quickly listen, slowly react…” then we obey. It may be very difficult not to react but God also will give us the strength to not only keep our mouth shut but also to prevent it from spewing hot lava.
Following the P.R.A.Y. response is not easy but it can be done. If we slowly practice this, not only will we see how people will respond to us and we will experience God as a miracle-worker. Imagine, we were able to hold our tongue and control our anger all because we yielded to His spirit? If He promises to be with us in times of testing, He will fulfill it as long as we are willing to obey. So when was the last time you P.R.A.Y.ed?