Unfortunately, we see a world around us that reacts to situations in the heat of the moment. Another news story…another road rage incident. The number of senseless causalities continues to rise. Someone cuts off another driver in traffic, pulls out in front of someone or won’t let a waiting car into the long line. Whatever the reason, someone gets upset and reacts, often with fatal results.
As the consequences of isolation from the pandemic reveal, a significant number of people struggle. Alarmingly increased rates of depression, domestic violence, crime, and drug use reveal the hurt hidden by months of seclusion. Frequently, the results produce volatile reactions.
But how should we conduct ourselves in tense situations? As the title of this blog indicates, we can respond or react. Reacting relies heavily on emotions and our initial feelings of the moment. How often have we reacted to a situation without thinking, only to later regret our haste? Responding takes a more measured approach. It views the problem or situation from different perspectives, evaluates options and then responds based on that information. For Christians, we look to Scripture for guidance on the appropriate response God desires.
For example, let’s imagine we are in a road rage incident like mentioned above. If someone cuts us off in traffic, we choose to respond with grace. Perhaps the offending driver is stressed and in a hurry due to a family emergency. If we knew more background, we would probably respond differently. Since we don’t know the back story, we assume positive intent. We allow them to cut in front. As a Christ follower, instead of getting angry, perhaps we wave, smile, and even say a prayer for them.
James 1:19-20 is a great reminder for us, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Proverbs is filled with wisdom about controlling our anger. Here are a couple of them:
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32)
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11)
As we hear of others hurting and see the devastating effects of months of isolation, let us choose to respond instead of react. May we offer grace and heed the Scriptures above. As we learn to rule our spirit, control our initial emotions and reactions, and respond in Christ-centered love, we may provide the very thing our neighbor needs to navigate this crazy world.