Respond, Don't React

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Let the Holy Spirit guide your words when you find yourself in angry or frustrating arguments.

My 18-year-old–who has never been an easy child–was exceptionally irrational and argumentative the other day. After a bit of back-and-forth, it was clear that my powers of persuasion were no match for his ability to aggravate.

On the brink of saying something I knew I’d regret I took a deep breath, mentally stepped back, and said my go-to prayer in these situations: Holy Spirit, guide my words.

Holy Spirit, guide my words. For words of peace and love do exist and are waiting to be said, even if my frustration-befuddled brain has no idea what they might be.

Holy Spirit, guide my words. For I would rather be guided by the wisdom of the Spirit than by my desperate-to-be-in-control heart.

Holy Spirit, guide my words. For my son needs the Holy Spirit in his own heart, and I need to be open to the possibility that I may be the channel through which that happens.

This prayer first arose in my heart the day it occurred to me that God calls me to respond to Him, not react. If I’m to love others as Christ loved me, I need to respond to them instead of react to their behavior.

Think about it: Reactions are me-centered. They reflect how I feel, and are an expression of what I expect or desire or demand of others.

Reactions are the lightning-quick words that burst forth when I am upset or angry or determined to get someone else to behave the way I want. They are what happens when someone else’s comments or actions strike the flint of my pride.

Responses are the polar opposite: seeing where another person is, and meeting him or her there, with love. Responses involve empathy, compassion, insight and a desire for reconciliation that exceeds the desire to win an argument.

When I first started thinking about this, moving from reacting to responding felt like an impossible task. Yet I’ve learned the distance can be covered with a two-second prayer: Holy Spirit, guide my words.

Which short prayers help you in the throes of an argument?

 By Julia Attaway

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