If you were to ask me, “What is one of the most important lessons you have ever learned?” I would be quick to respond that it is the lesson of learning NOT to react to other people’s actions. It is one of the most difficult lessons I have ever learned in my life and one that I continue to work on it to this very day!
It is very easy to get caught up in someone else’s craziness. If someone yells at you or reacts in any number of other ways, it is quite common to respond in like kind to their action. But, that is the most childish thing you could possibly do. How many times has a member of your family said something in a way that hurt your feelings? How tempting was it to hurt them right back? It is a natural response. We all want to defend ourselves or seek protection against attacks. However, that protection can come in better ways than simply seeking revenge. Oftentimes, the wisest thing a person can do is to respond in a soft way. I’m sure you have heard the wise saying, “A soft answer will get you out of a hard situation.” In so many words, that means that we need to respond like a mature adult rather than like an immature child.
A while back, my daughter Rachael went to get her driver’s license renewed. There was a huge sign on the wall explaining what was needed: A current, valid driver’s license or a certified birth certificate, and cash. The Georgia state patrol sign clearly stated that they would not accept credit cards or checks. As Rachael stood in line and observed the actions of those in front of her, she was amazed at what she saw. Hardly anyone came prepared with the needed items. Most did not have a current, valid license or certified birth certificate, and had no cash. In spite of the posted sign, they wanted to write a check or use a credit card and were upset because they were not allowed to do so. They were not happy when they were asked to step out of line and come back with the proper documentation. Rachael noticed that the female state patrol officer behind the counter was becoming more and more upset by the minute. She also noticed that the officer was wearing a firearm on her hip. Rachael laughed when she told me, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to upset someone who is wearing a gun!”
After a while, it was Rachael’s turn. She had all of her paperwork in order. She had a current driver’s license that had not expired; her certified birth certificate; and, she had cash in her hand. As Rachael approached the officer she remarked, “You run a tight ship around here!” The state patrol officer looked up at my daughter and said, “Well, I try to.” Rachael said, “You don’t TRY, you DO!” The officer smiled and offered her assistance. In just a matter of minutes the process was finished, and Rachael was on her way out the door.
When she told me that story, we both got a good laugh out of it and I couldn’t help but think that entire scenario was full of reactions – not only by the people who did not get their way, but also by the officer who had to put up with people who did not read the sign or follow directions.
Perhaps this issue of reacting to the reactions of others is most difficult at home. Which one of us has not been affected by the mood or attitude of someone else in our home? Many times, a husband or wife wakes up in a bad mood and says something unkind or unthoughtful to a spouse – which “sets them off.” Then, one reacts to the other and the downward spiral begins. Think about how a “moody” teenager or child can start off a chain reaction with his or her brothers or sisters by reacting in an immature manner. It can be very frustrating indeed. However, learning NOT to react, but rather respond in a mature, gentle manner can help relationships grow and succeed rather than be frustrating and destructive. I have also learned the silence cannot be misquoted.
This week take a long, hard look at how you respond to the reactions of others. Do you get your direction in life from the moods, comments or attitudes of others, or do you respond to others based on your own maturity and stability in life? Again, it can be one of life’s greatest challenges if you do not do it well. But, it can be one of life’s greatest assets when you become a source of blessing and healing to others rather than a source of irritation.
Put this concept at the top of your agenda this week and everyone you meet will benefit from it! I guarantee it!
Tip: Don’t react like an immature child, rather respond like a mature adult!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm