Have you ever noticed that quick reactions are something we work hard to develop? In sports, a common goal is to have the quickest reaction to instantly changing scenarios. When driving, quick reactions can be the difference between a call to the insurance company and continuing on your way. Witty remarks are approved and encouraged in conversations. And I can’t forget to mention the countless times I’ve had to think spur of the moment on my feet.
For the most part, I would say that quick reactions come in handy, but when these are complemented by cutting words, a lack of processing, and the urge to have the final say, hurt is bound to happen. I will be the first to admit that it is so easy to get caught up in the emotions of a situation; before you know it, you are reacting and not responding. I have come to realize that the more frustrated I get, the shorter my fuse becomes, and in return, the quicker my unprocessed reactions leave my mouth.
This is an area of my life that is a continual work in progress; the beauty of working to become more patient, is that each day there are numerous new opportunities to try again. My best advice? I can’t really take credit because this approach has come from my therapist, but here it is: Slow down your reaction to what’s going on. When your child acts out, or your significant other does something that’s just soooo annoying, try to first pause. It will take everything within you to fight against the human nature of saying the first thing that comes to your mind. Fight it! Try your hardest to slow down your breathing, clear your mind, and wisely consider the situation. Once you have had a chance to allow the instant flood of emotional-charged reactions to pass, you can better choose what to do next. I have heard it said the strongest urge of any emotion lasts 9-10 seconds, and then it is gone. Fight for those 9-10 seconds.
“The beauty of working to become more patient, is that each day there are numerous new opportunities to try again.”
Stop and Ask Yourself This
One thing that really helps me is to picture how Jesus–in His loving kindness and patience– would respond if placed in the same situation. I literally ask myself, What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD); how would He show love right now? His patience towards the sin in our lives and the brokenness in our world is the greatest example of a slowness to anger; of course this is so much easier said than done. James 1:19-20 embodies the approach everyone should strive to hold. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry, because man’s anger does not bring about the life that God desires for us.”
Our minds are just like the other muscles within our body. In the same way that you can strengthen your biceps by breaking them down, and then allowing them to rebuild, you can also strengthen your mind’s reactions. It is a slow process, and failure is going to happen, but the reward of overcoming your quick reactions is great. Remember that it takes a strong person to make the choice to slow down. As you work to slow down, and breath deeply, I would encourage you to smell the roses while you’re at it.