Respond or React?

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By: Linda Merriott

Anger. We all have lost our temper at times. But when anger becomes a predominant emotion, we have a problem. 

The Bible says ugly, hateful words should never come from our mouths, but if we grew up in angry homes, we learned how easily tempers can flare (Ephesians 4:29-32 The Passion). When we become parents, we tend to parent as our parents did. Unresolved traumatic experiences can also lead to anger and temper outbursts as we react rather than respond. We:

  • Make others uncomfortable, angry, or afraid.
  • Raise our stress levels, which increases adverse chemical reactions in our bodies.
  • Embarrass easily with our response and have difficulty recovering.
  • Feel worse afterwards than we did before the outburst.

One of the best things we can do when we are angry is simply say, “We need to talk later. I am feeling some anger right now, and I do not make good decisions when angry. I will talk to you when I can calm down and think clearly. Thank you.” Then walk away. Remember, delay the discussion or consequence if you are too angry or do not know what to do. If you are unsure what to do, say, “I am not sure what to think about this. I need some time. I will talk to you later.” (See Ecclesiastes 5:6, James 3:8 New Life Version).

With adults and children who have made a mistake that makes us want to react, we can always respond with empathy. Find an empathetic statement that you can use, such as:

  •  This is so sad…
  •  Oh no….
  • That’s never good…
  •  Oh, man….
  •  Wow, that stinks….
  •  What a bummer…
  •  Oh, I am so sorry….

Applying empathy in a situation makes the person who has messed up think about what they have done instead of blaming others for their behavior. You help them into a thinking mode, allowing them to see their own mistakes. If you are dealing with a child, you may still need to apply consequences but always use empathy before ramifications. The compassion must be genuine.

With your children, here are four things to do to give loving consequences their power:

  • Make every “hello” and “goodbye” a special event.
  • At least once a day, notice something special about them.
  • Remove any hint of sarcasm.
  • Love them even when they are not being so lovable.

We must remember that we can always change (Philippians 4:13). It takes desire, determination, and the Holy Spirit working in us to make it happen (John 14:20). Only the Holy Spirit can produce His fruit in you (Zechariah 4:6). He isn’t natural but supernatural (Acts 1:8).

Dearest Heavenly Father,

I am so grateful to be your child! Thank you for loving and caring for me! May I respond to You with obedience. 

Forgive me for the way I have reacted in sin sometimes. Lord Jesus, I am so grateful for your death on the cross that allowed me salvation and a way to you. You covered my sin and forgave me.  

I have often been a reactor and not a responder. I am desperate to change for the better! Holy Spirit, I invite you to fill me up, inhabit me, and help me become the person You envision. I ask you to help me apply God’s word to my life. 

May I not just know Your Word but allow You to become an integral part of my being. I give up any religious spirit to exemplify Your love to others. Please help me to curb my temper and built bridges with others. 

I come to You as clay in the hands of the Potter. Mold me and make me into the person you created me to be. I love you and declare that I belong to you, and the enemy has no hold on me. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen!