Remembering how to respond


Yesterday was a struggle for me. I saw something, that made me think something, that made me feel something, that made me want to do something, that made me think something, that made me feel something…

You see where this is going, right?

Nowhere.

At least, nowhere good.

Or helpful.

In this case,  being alone at home with my napping kid and no car forced me to pause before reacting. The longer I waited, resisting the urge to do something, anything, the more one question presented itself: “Why?”

Every time I asked “Why,” and answered it truthfully, it became more clear that none of my answers were very good.

This is kinda how it played out in my mind palace:

“Oh NO!!! Something happened!”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why?”

“Because I wasn’t there.”

“Why?”

“Because I wasn’t supposed to be.”

“Why?”

“Because my responsibilities and commitments won’t allow it.”

“Why?”

“Because my priorities are in order.”

“Why?”

“Because I love God and I love my family.”

“Why?”

“Because I depend on them (in that order) to survive.”

“Why?”

“Because I need to live.”

“Why?”

“Because my life is meaningful.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m connected to other people and we need to learn from each other.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s how we get better.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s how God designed it.”

Now, them’s a lotta “Why’s?” But let’s look again at the first and last answers to the same question.

“I don’t know” and “Because that’s how God designed it.”

Every one of us has reactive moments:  Instances when our minds process information before we can thoughtfully respond. In those instances, if we have neither developed enough personal self-control nor surrounded ourselves with the restraints we need, our bodies will act on impulsive commands without any thought process.

So here are two big reminders:

  1. Practice self-control.
  2. Question information received (especially information that comes without being sought out).

For me, my restraint was being alone in a house with a sleeping baby and no car. In another circumstance it’s a near certainty all those “Why” questions would have been coming from my husband later, as he tried to make sense of how events unfolded after my overreaction.

Your life matters. You are important. You are powerful.

That means your choices matter. Your time matters.

We’re assaulted with information constantly. Since my info assault yielded a couple of helpful reminders, hopefully it will help you have an easier time responding to information.

About self-control: Be honest with yourself about how self-controlled, how disciplined you are. Surround yourself with people who bring out your best and lovingly fight back against your worst. Remove the things you consume that cause your body to over (or under)react, whether it’s comfort foods, sugar, alcohol, or other substances. Remove the things you see that cause you to overreact, whether it’s TV shows, music, feeds, app notifications, or news alerts.

Ask “Why?”: Remember to thoughtfully process information before responding. Keep asking “Why?” until the answers are greater than your feelings. Whether you react or respond, the clock is still ticking. A reaction will usually permit harm, violence, avoidance, stagnation, or reversion, requiring cleanup, realignment, healing, and restructuring. A response will usually allow for intimacy, strength, vulnerability, and love, requiring expansion, growth, depth, power and progress.

Reactions are limited, thoughtless, and hopeless.

Responses are limitless, mindful, and hope-filled.

We’re all in this together. Let’s be better.

 

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