March 13, 2014
Three Questions You Must Ask Before Reacting
"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)
My heart raced when I saw the number pop up on my phone. Nothing in me wanted to have this conversation. I was beyond aggravated. Hurt. Angry. And tired of being misunderstood.
I answered the call with two goals in mind — to prove how right I was and how wrong the other person was.
How do you think that conversation went?
This conflict happened over five years ago so the rush of emotion has dissipated, and I can see more clearly how wrong my approach was.
I learned from that conflict. Hopefully, I learn something from every conflict — especially how to have better reactions. I'm so far from being in a place where I can shine my halo.
But I'm getting better.
While my initial thoughts when a conflict arises are usually those same old "I'll show you" thoughts, I've progressed by not letting those leak into my reactions.
By asking myself three questions:
1. What part of this issue can I own and apologize for?
There are always two sides to every issue. And no side is perfectly right or all the way wrong.
If I make peace with the part I need to own and apologize for before the conversation, there's a greater chance I'll stay calm in the conversation. Our key verse, Proverbs 15:1, is a verse I've memorized and recall often, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
2. How can I soften my heart toward this person so I honor them despite how they react?
This one is hard. Really hard. But I know hurt people hurt people.
Usually the person with whom I'm having a conflict has some kind of past or current hurt in their life feeding this issue. Chances are that hurt doesn't have anything to do with me but is adding to their emotional response in this conflict.
Softening my heart is easier if I can sympathize with the hurt I can't see. If I can duck below my pride, honor will be my reward. Proverbs 29:23 reminds us, "Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor" (NIV).
3. If I knew this conversation was being recorded and then shared with people I greatly respect, how would this change my reaction?
What if I showed up to church this week and my pastor directed everyone to watch the screen for an example of a bad reaction? And then my face appeared. Have. Mercy. I. Would. Surely. Faint.
While it is highly unlikely that our conversation would be recorded and viewed, it is very likely others are watching our reaction. Children. Co-workers. Friends. But here's the one that really grabs my heart – my Jesus is very much present. Philippians 4:5 reminds us, "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near" (NIV).
Every conflict has variables that must be considered. Some conflicts have escalated to the point where professionals must be asked to help. Be mindful and prayerful about this.
But for the everyday conflicts we all have, these questions are good to consider. If we control our reactions in the short-term, we don't have to live with "reaction regret" in the long-term!
Dear Lord, I'm inviting You into my reactions today as I realign my perspective. Help me to use words and choose actions that honor You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Learn more about the weight of our words and how to use them in a God-honoring way with Lysa's best-selling book, Unglued. Click here to purchase your copy.
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Reflect and Respond:
Which of Lysa's three questions resonates with you the most?
Write down the accompanying Bible verse Lysa provided. Then, write three action steps you can take the next time you are faced with conflict that will implement the teaching in this verse.
Proverbs 18:21, "Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit — you choose." (MSG)
James 1:19-20, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." (NIV)
© 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.
Originally published Thursday, 13 March 2014.