God has a way of making His profound wisdom appear everywhere before my eyes when He is calling me to make a change. The Holy Spirit had already been nudging me to respond with a gentle, compassionate answer when something ticked me off but, instead, I often reacted poorly. In my Bible study on God’s inheritance, I had just learned in I Peter 3:9 that I should not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this I was called so that I might inherit a blessing from God.
In my quiet time that morning, He nudged me again. I read the following words about reactions vs. responses written by Lysa Terkeurst from her “Unglued Devotional:”
• A reactor escalates the conflict. A responder dissipates the conflict.
• A reactor adds trouble on top of trouble. A responder adds grace on top of grace.
• A reactor either spews emotion or masters the silent treatment. A responder gives a gentle answer.
• A reactor only sees things her way. A responder realizes there are always two sides to every issue.
• A reactor demands her right to be right. A responder is more concerned about making right choices before God.
Nevertheless, that very evening, while I tried to negotiate through a new recipe for supper, I encountered an opportunity to test the wisdom I had recently received. My husband and granddaughter came to me within minutes of each other, bombarding me with two separate issues, which they expected me to fix on the spot. Inside I felt a reactive emotion well up—one that often comes when I am anxious or under pressure. I was agitated, annoyed, and, honestly, downright ticked. Couldn’t they see this was not the time to brazen out their concerns about weighty subjects that would take some consideration on my part? Couldn’t they demonstrate a little mindfulness here? I wanted to give them a piece of my mind and send them both packing, out of my face. I wanted to rant, rail, and react! Once again, right there in my kitchen, that nudging occurred and I deemed it more appropriate to still my sharp words. However, I’m convinced they both heard the deep sigh that came all the way from my gut!
A little later, as I dished up the food and sat down at the counter to test the new recipe, it became apparent that God was not finished teaching me about reactions versus responses. I realized that my deep sigh was really a reaction and not a compassionate response. I still felt angry and, frankly, I was pouting because I had stuffed my own feelings. That, too, was an unhealthy reaction, which might lead to resentment. How much better a gentle answer would have been for all of us.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. Proverbs 15:1-2