There’s this guy I used to work with, we’ll call him Gerald, and he used to have a distinct reaction when something was said. Let’s say the boss was talking about work policy. I, along with a few others, would look over at Gerald, because we knew he would disagree with what was being explained. His face would change to the color of a ripe plum. His eyes would sink and glower with a special elixir of anger and disgust. This happened so quickly! Then he would use expletives as punctuation’s until someone told him to calm down. His reaction to something he didn’t agree with was immediately turned into hostility and he unloaded.
Are we any different when controlling our reactions?
For some of us (I’m waving my hand here), controlling our reactions sounds like stopping a runaway train. We hear something we don’t like, we read someone’s post which we don’t agree with, someone shares a thing and we react immediately. There’s no control, we just go like a race car waiting for the green light.
In therapeutic circles, these emotional reactions are referred to as “Triggers” and they usually aren’t healthy. Outbursts of anger, unshakable anxiety, fear, headache inducing stress, and similar reactions affect both ourselves and others around us. Walls being punched, hands that won’t stop shaking, stomachs that refuse to calm down, minds that race toward the worst possible scenario are all real reactions to our triggers. Now, let’s be adults and agree that sometimes our emotional reaction is appropriate. I’m talking about those situations in which they are not.
So how can we control our emotional reactions?
James 1:19 has some specific help in these situations: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become ___________” The verse includes the emotion of anger, but how about you fill in the blank. What emotion do you need help with controlling? Think about it for a few and let’s break the verse down into snack size pieces.
Everyone should be quick to listen…
Receiving is the key ingredient here. Let’s listen to what’s being said and what’s happening around us without our guard up. Currently, I’m in law enforcement and listening carefully is the key to success. I don’t care how agitated the speaker is, I listen to their complaints with eye contact and patience. I get paid to do this, but the bible verse is clear “Everyone” means everyone. Quick to listen is letting them speak first. We give them the chance to talk while we’re paying attention.
Slow to speak….
This means we have taken the time to process what’s been said. We’ve thought about our responses before we open our mouths. Some of us have an unused filter that fits between our brains and our mouths. Let’s use this filter more often! Slow to speak means, I know what I want to say, I know what I usually say, but let me just hold up a few seconds, a few minutes, a few days to answer. Every once in a while, I hear someone say, “You know, I’m ticked off right now, but I’m going to wait until later in the day to respond to this email.” That’s a winner!
Slow to ___________
Anger? Anxiety? Fear? Want to isolate? Get stressed? Don’t get me wrong, some of us are on medication for these and I’m all for it. If there’s a medication that can help us with something we’re diagnosed with, then please continue to take them. But some of us (waving my hand), just need to slow down. Think. Breath. I received a phone call regarding a family member. My belief was this person didn’t want to talk to me anymore. I was crushed. I was angry. I wanted to do something stupid. I wanted to react in an unhealthy way. But I didn’t. I thought about what was said, about how I would normally react and about how I should react. And it worked! I didn’t make that phone call with wild accusations. I didn’t let it bother me all night and let sleep get away from me. In fact, what I had supposed was not true at all! It was a big misunderstanding! Yay!
There’s ways to divert our unhealthy reactions that work. We just have to follow the instructions and practice it. It will work! I pray that you will practice this exercise when needed (in traffic for me!) and follow Jesus to a more healthy you!