I struggle with controlling my reactions. When someone says something to offend me, or does something unscrupulous, or even holds an opinion diametrically opposed to my own, my reaction to those people can get me in trouble in a hurry. I want to be loving and given time to formulate my words, I do my best to say things that build people up, not tear them down (Ephesians 4:29).
But at that moment of a split-second reaction? I don’t fare so well. I know I’m not alone in this as it’s easy to observe the way others react as well. Still, I know controlling my reactions is important to living a life that looks like Jesus.
I recently heard Craig Groeschel speak on this topic. He pointed out there is always a gap between the action and the reaction. It’s a very small gap to be certain, but it does exist. The key is to fill that gap with love, not our usual indignation. During the split-second gap between the actions of someone else and our reaction to them, we need to focus on loving the other person. It’s nearly impossible to spew venom at someone while at the same time focusing on loving them. This isn’t easy, but I believe we can discipline ourselves to do it. Of course, it helps if we are spending our days operating out of love in the first place!
Something else Pastor Groeschel said stuck with me. He said, “We attribute our actions to our circumstances. We attribute other’s actions to their character.” We see our reactions (which then become our actions) as dictated by the circumstances surrounding the moment. However, we don’t extend the same courtesy to the other party. We think they acted the way they did or said the thing they said because it’s who they are at their core. It’s funny how we would never apply the same standard to ourselves. We see ourselves as acting situationally, but everyone else’s behavior is perceived to be institutional.
I hope you see the hypocrisy in this. If you do, you’ll be one step closer to controlling your own reactions. It’s important to see the other person as God sees them and not as we do at that moment. They have stuff going on in their lives just like we do. They lash out in anger the same as us. We have no idea what’s going on in their lives, so we must not assume malicious intent in their words or actions. Our only job is to love them regardless of what they do or say to us.
Controlling my reactions has always been a weak spot. There are certain people who push my buttons from the moment they walk in a room. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true. We’ve always known we should control how we react, but now we have a tool to help. Pour love into the gap between the action and your reaction. Remember your calling to look like Jesus is far greater than your desire to save face. We should do no less when reacting to the trivial annoyances throughout our day.