"Are you a reactor or a responder?" I read this question on Facebook a few days ago. I knew immediately what the honest answer was for me... a recovering reactor trying hard to become a responder...I have so far to go. This battle is one that I fight all day everyday. In a home filled with kids and messes and arguments and chores, my patience is not always "on point". In fact, some days it seems I lack this esteemed virtue altogether. I don't really want to pray for patience, because I know how God works it into our lives and frankly, I just don't feel up to the challenge! So my prayer sounds more like this, "God, you know I need help in this area. I know I need your help in this area. Please help me, but please be gentle?" And He is faithful. He has (thus far) been gentle. Reminding me in the tense moment to just breathe, keeping me aware of the effects of my reactions, teaching me the benefits of a Godly response, flooding my life with encouraging friends, and reminding me that there is always grace to try again when I miss the mark.
When the 2 year old is whining, I'm practicing a calm and pleasant (but authoritative) response, instead of whining back at her to "stop that whining!". When the kool-aid spills all over the table and on the stacks of mail (that I should have put away 3 days ago), I am learning to just hand the embarassed child a towel and say "no big deal, I spill stuff sometimes too." When I read or hear something that makes my old defensive nature kick into high gear, I am working on immediately giving it to God, who is my Defender. When dear husband is a little tense and speaks in a tone of voice that is harsh, I'm trying hard to take my focus off my own feelings and get to the heart of what's bugging him so I can be his helper. And when I hear the big kids yelling and fighting (this is a hard one) I am not going to march into the fight with fists clenched screaming at them to "Stop the yelling!!!".
See, the problem with being a reactor is this... a reactor doesn't usually bring positive change to a negative situation. Instead, a reactor just reacts to the anxiety or stress of the moment and becomes part of the problem. As a wife and mom, I don't want to be part of the problem! I want to be part of the solution! I want to model grace and patience and gentleness so that these little (and not-so-little) ones can learn how to live it out themselves. A "response" requires intentionality... To respond is to form an answer or reply, and to form something we must put some thought into it. And if we are going to take time to put some thought into it, why not put some prayer into it as well?
This is the verse I am memorizing to help me slow down and respond instead of react...
Proverbs 15:1 "A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongues kindles a temper-fire."
I don't know about you, but in this house I don't need to kindle any temper-fires! They seem to be burning just fine without my help! And according to this verse, with God's help I can learn to put them out. Un-learning my reactive ways will take time and effort, no doubt. But if the reward is a more peaceful and grace-filled home, then I am willing!
A great article on the subject! http://lysaterkeurst.com/2011/07/reactor-or-responder/