React VS Response

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A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim. – Proverbs 15:1, 4 The Message

There was once during cell we were discussing about a ‘cockroach management theory’ on ‘reacting’ and ‘responding’. It brought to my mind this famous liner by Charles R. Swindoll, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” And to quote Ann Landers, “The trouble with talking too fast is you may say something you haven’t thought of yet.”

In short, the way we react or response reveal or rather mirror our heart and character- you are what you say.

There is a vast difference between ‘reacting’ and ‘responding’- we usually react out of our emotional impulse, quick and without much thought, as opposed to ‘responding’ where we usually pause with deliberation to think over how to respond appropriately despite how we feel at the moment. Reaction often sparks off a chain of negative reactions unnecessarily, whereas response provokes analysis and opens ground for healthy discussion.

I can totally relate between these two subjects. I used to be a very reactive person as a result of growing up under a stigma of rejections that had moulded me to be a very ultra-sensitive person. I took every little comment personally and reacted negatively, even if the person meant no malicious intent. The root was deep so were the wounds. Because of this sensitivity, I deliberately hardened my heart in order to prevent any injurious infliction. And over the years, I grew numb emotionally as if living in denial was my way to survive. Imagine that I had been living in a vicious cycle of blaming my family background and a physical condition I could never accept.

But God has been gracious and didn’t leave me that way, just as an onion has layer upon layer to peel off, God had been gently dealing with this deep issue in order to bring healing to my whole being. It took me years to learn and overcome. Aside to arming myself with the Shield of Faith and Sword of the Spirit, these practical tips also help immensely:

  1. Rein myself in for 3 days against reacting in order to response with a clear mind appropriately;
  2. Should I find myself reacting to a situation, I should filter it by asking myself: (a) Is it true? (b) Is it right? (c) Is it necessary? (d) Does it benefit or helpful to the person who listen?
  3. Pause and evaluate what and why you are reacting? Then nib it in the bud immediately otherwise this bad root will grow into a strong tree and you will find yourself in a vicious cycle.
  4. Last but not least, realise that words whether spoken or unspoken, will be actualised and has the power to bring the end result it has been intended for.

I hope by sharing this excerpt from my own journey will help others to avoid this unnecessary path. May it also provide some insights to how we are what we are because of where we were.

And yes of course, even till now, there is no way I can be perfect in this area, until I get to Heaven. And nonetheless, it doesn’t warrant a license to continue living as I was. The heart of the matter is often the matter of the heart- Attitude. It is but a matter of how you see it and response; and response takes action wisely.

Careless Words Can Kill

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Being a familiar recipient of past scorns, I could very well relate to careless words. What really hold me on good ground is the verse that God is ultra-stern on- “But I tell you, on the day of judgment people will have to give an accounting for every (empty, careless, idle, thoughtless, worthless or useless) word they speak. For by your words [reflecting your spiritual condition] you will be justified and acquitted of the guilt of sin; and by your words [rejecting Me] you will be condemned and sentenced.” – Matthew 12:36-37 AMP

Imagine, every words are recorded in God’s account that we ultimately have to come before Him on the day of judgement. If you read verse Matthew 12:37 carefully, it is “by our words, whether we be justified or acquitted of the guilt of sin…” Woah, scary isn’t it?

If we are truly honest, we all are guilty of careless words whether with another person or even with God:

(a) Broken promises

(b) Empty words

(c) Tongue-lashes from anger

(d) Gossips count?

(e) Grumbling counts?

(f) And the what-nots…

Prov 12:18 says “Careless words stab like a sword”, which literally mean it is as good as (attempted) murder.

It took me years (including being trained under as a cell leader to lead by example) to really master the art of silence whenever I am upset or angry (the latter is not of my personality to arrive at). Simply, it is harder to remain silent than to react because silence is Strength under Control. It is a lot much easier to flare. Apart from remembering the preceding verse, the other verse is Proverbs 18:6-7, “A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.”

Let me give you an illustration- All of us has a battery life in us, that indicate our strength. Aside to indicate our energy level, it also indicates our emotional quotient. Imagine you scold somebody very harshly, the battery life in that person will minus a bar or more depending on the severity. It can be dangerous if the person’s battery life is left with a bar… We can either choose to top up the person’s battery life with kind words or deeds or rob the person with unkind words or deeds. So the take home point is, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” – Proverbs 18:21

What kind of fruits are you reaping? In other words, it should be “heaping” in your life? If we have been recipients of the magnitude of God’s Grace, Forgiveness, Mercies, Gentleness and Love, is it too difficult for us to show in our human weakness even a portion to others?

P.s. To clarify- it does not mean I have perfected it, none of us can arrive there. But we can only get better with the help of Holy Spirit if we lead a spirit-filled life. 🙂