Respond, Not React
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
A reaction is an immediate retaliation from someone who is led by emotions. They react in anger when they feel insulted. They withdraw when they feel left out. They react with gossip when they feel mistreated. They react defensively when they feel criticized. A reaction is easy because it is a base behavior that operates without boundaries. A hasty reaction happens in the moment and many times leads to regret. The flesh reacts, but the Spirit leads us to respond.
A measured response, on the other hand delays its interaction until it processes in prayer. So when we receive an email that provokes our pride or hurts our feelings, we refrain from firing back an immediate defense. We remind ourselves that email is helpful for information, but a less effective communicator. Or a friend or family member makes a disrespectful remark about us at a social gathering. We wait and talk with them after several days, so we can respond with logic, not emotion. We discuss with them how to keep our relationship whole, not fractured.
“By long forbearance and calmness of spirit a judge or ruler is persuaded, and soft speech breaks down the most bone-like resistance” (Proverbs 25:15, The Amplified Bible).
Therefore, when your blood pressure rises, pause and ask Christ to guard your heart with His peace. When your mind goes to a worse case scenario, ask the Lord to renew your thinking to see His bigger picture at work. When your throat drys and your lips are parched, let the Holy Spirit lubricate your speech with grace. When the hairs stand up on your arm, remember your heavenly Father knows the number of hairs on your head, so He can handle this event or person. Another’s arrogance is agitating, but your humble response invites a calm conversation. Respond in love.
Jesus modeled a loving response in place of an angry reaction (John 7:20-24). He was accused of being demon-possessed, but instead of insulting their ignorance, He appealed to their intellect by invoking their knowledge of Moses. And He went on to logically explain why it's ok to heal a broken body on the Sabbath. Indeed, Christ in us gives us a calm spirit to respond rationally and with respect. Our Spirit-led response will bear spiritual fruit. The Lord will use our soft answer to soften a heart in need of a Savior. We pray they will respond to Jesus in saving faith.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me pause to respond with respect and love, not in hasty judgment.
Related Readings: Ecclesiastes 10:4; Matthew 12:36; Ephesians 5:4; Colossians 3:8
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