To React, or Not to React?
"Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger settles in the lap of a fool." ~ Ecclesiastes 7:9
As we all know, within each of us is the capacity for dark and the capacity for light.
This can be a global, universal, esoteric observation.
It can be something considered in a life as a whole, or perhaps in a season of life.
But, it can also be an inquiry we bring down into the microscopic moments, the fraction of a second between action and reaction.
No offense to Newton, but I'm not sure it's true that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In physics, perhaps. But, in a human heart? I believe we are capable of expanding that moment within, of taking a beat to take a thought captive, or an emotion, and responding intentionally with grace, rather than reacting.
By the way, I am far from perfect in this practice.
In my case, the word practice is definitely applicable in more than one way when it comes to this facet of walking in grace and strength and peace with wisdom and discernment.
However, the more I practice, the more intentional I am about creating a beat to ask how I choose to respond, how the Father would have me respond, rather than reacting in the ways I've been conditioned by culture, experience, or my own mind to respond, the better I am able to be at it. I believe it's a skill accessible to us all.
There's a meme floating around that I'm pretty sure was a chain email long before that, and was probably uttered by some long-ago wise one or brilliant high school teacher, that can help us create the desired space between impulse and reaction.
When we open our mouth to speak, we can expand time by asking ourselves...
1. Is what we are about to say True?
2. Is it Helpful?
3. Is it Inspiring?
4. Is it Necessary?
5. Is it Kind?
We can simply take a moment to T.H.I.N.K..
If it passes through all of those thresholds, and we've taken the moment to consider whether or not it does, we've moved out of the realm of reaction into intentional action. That's a place from which we can take thoughts captive and stand on powerful ground...
Stand on the rock, even. :)
There are other ways to create that space. We can take a deep breath, count to ten, excuse ourselves and step outside for some fresh air or a moment in creation, or we can choose to take ourselves out of our own shoes for a moment and see things from the perspective of another.
There are many, many strategies.
Consistent meditation and prayer also help dramatically with this practice.
The second half of Proverbs 10:19 implores us to remember, "...he who restrains his lips is wise."
Ecclesiastes 7:9 begins "Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit..."
We are asked by our creator to take that moment.
I was just about to sign off when I remembered that Viktor E. Frankl, as with so many things, expressed this very concept beautifully. This is a man who was a neurologist and a psychiatrist, who was also interned for three years in three different concentration camps during World War II.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
As we endeavor to respond in grace rather than react, I pray we grow in our capacity for both growth and freedom within ourselves and in the power and presence of God.
And, when we do, what is our reward?
Well, frankly they're far too numerous and vast in scope (both earthly and eternal) to address in this sign off. But, I am reminded of Luke 8:15.
"But the seeds on good soil are those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, cling to it, and by persevering produce a crop."
When we are patient and persevere we produce a crop, both in the expansion of our ability to utilize the moment between "stimulus and response" to choose
well and wisely, but in the harvests that come over time from sowing good seed.
Proverbs 15:4 begins, "A soothing tongue is a tree of life..."
May we grow more like Him in these ways and beyond, may we each be the keeper of a "soothing tongue," that we might find the space between stimulus and response to speak and act as the Father would have us interact with the world, and may each of our multifoliate multi-dimensional harvests be fruitful.
As the Psalmist implores, we too pray...
"Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips." (141:3)
May we restrain our minds, moment by moment, that with Your help we are able to "take every thought captive," and in turn "restrain our lips," that we might grow ever more Christlike in our ability to respond well, rather than react.
This we pray in Your most Holy Names,
"He who is slow to anger is better than a warrior, and he who controls his temper is greater than one who captures a city." ~ Proverbs 16:32
"The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice." ~ Psalm 37:30
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, outcry and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and tenderhearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you." ~ Ephesians 4:31-32
May the Good Lord bless you and keep you, friends... always, in all ways. Amen.
Bonus song of praise... ♥
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