A Measured Response
Hi, I’m Bob, and I’m an over-responder. Let me define that for you. Every once in a while – ok, maybe more often than I want to think about – I have a 10x response to a 2x problem. You know, I over-respond. I contribute more energy to the issue than I should. I’m not a betting man, but I would wager that you, too, have been an over-responder. Or maybe you’ve been around someone who over-responds. Maybe they’ve over-responded to you.
Welcome to our O.R. meeting. Yeah, it’s like an AA meeting, except I’m not anonymous. And we’re not struggling with an addiction to over-responding. But we probably do it without thinking and doing it at all is undesirable.
As the leader of this meeting, I will humbly admit that I struggle with a tendency to expend far too much energy on things that I won’t remember in a week. Why do I do this? Why do we do this?
We get upset over the small stuff, but maybe there’s something bigger beneath that angry surface. We might tell people, through words, or actions, or expressions of intense hostility, that we are upset about something small, like the outcome of a football game, or the incorrectness of our Wendy’s order. But what if there’s something else going on?
We all have buttons to push and nerves to hit. Sometimes we need to examine the legitimacy of those pain-points. Is it reasonable to be upset about how your neighbor does, or doesn’t, cut his grass? We have very real wounds, all of us, that we have to work through with the Holy Spirit, but there’s a difference between a soul wound and a single albeit irksome encounter with someone you may never see again (all those baristas, man).
So, advice piece number one. Take a moment of introspection, breathe deeply, and see what’s big in your life that might be causing you to freak out over the small stuff.
Just as much as we’ve all had those moments of over-response (overreaction, really) We’ve also been on the receiving end of someone else’s expression of stress and anxiety. You tripped over someone’s pain-point, big or small, and you got bit. They reacted, and you had no idea where they were coming from. But remember step number one? Not everyone can be as big and mature as you have been about singling out your stressors. When someone lashes out over a poor choice of words, even if you didn’t know they were poor, try to remember that you have a choice here. You still have some control over the conversation.
Sure, you can go have the same reaction they had, knee-jerk and reflexive, stemming out of your moment of heated anger. Or you can remember that all people have hurts and hang-ups that they’re struggling with, and you accidentally found someone else’s. How they reacted has everything to do with them, and almost nothing to do with you. You were a catalyst, but in the moment that they tried to hurt you, it wasn’t because you are you. It was because they are them.
This is an incredibly important distinction if we’re ever going to break this cycle of hurt people hurting people. So, the next time someone gives you the cold shoulder, or maybe a headache from the reaming out, try applying Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin. That is if you’re angry take heed that you do not sin. Anger at sin is not evil, but we should feel only pity to the sinner.”
I know we aren’t going to hold hands and sing kumbaya. Christ didn’t do that either. He flipped the tables; He called out the sin; His stance on justice and Truth was intense. But so was His love for the sinner. He loves us intensely, abundantly. So, we must learn to love each other, to offer that “benefit of the doubt” thing I keep hearing about. A smile and some patience could be just the glimpse of Jesus someone needs today.
Maybe we can expand the Kingdom by remembering that our anger should be directed towards sin, not people. And maybe, just maybe, we can save some money on anti-acids (you know me, always looking for that upside).
Go out and do Jesus to someone today, because you might be the only person they meet who knows how to do that.