React, Repeat, Respond

Life is hard and not fair. A good friend of mine, Joe, reminds people often that we cannot control our situations, but we can control how we respond to them. The platitude of attitude is everything comes into play here. When life hits you, a mentor taught me that people respond in one of three ways. They react to the situation. They repeat the situation. They respond to the situation. Responding to the situation is an approach that is challenging, because it is often the choice we do not want to make.

React

When we react we sling shot to the other extreme. Life is more nuanced than we would like, but this is forgotten as we set aside one set of problems for another. In our human conscience we sense the need for balance. God told Joshua to do what the Bible says, not turn to the right nor the left. In reacting, people take on the other side while also keeping the worst of what they left. We do not solve problem in reacting, and we often bring to ourselves more drama. In reacting we also respond quickly or unhealthy when that wound is poked. It festers with bitterness and resentment.

Repeat

A long time ago I visited two churches back to back. One was contemporary, the other quite traditional. In the church world we would say legalistic. The contemporary church made a point that they were not legalistic, you can come as you are. Except me. Apparently wrangler jeans were not an acceptable brand choice, and as such not relatable to the crowd that I attended. I was told this. The following week I attended a conference at a traditional church. There I was chided for wearing khakis and not more formal dress to honor God. Here is the formula: Wearing X is bad because of Y standard. The contemporary church became what they were fighting against. Again, the problem is not solved. When the wound is poked we think we are ok, but sadly, we became thing that we hate. The wound festers with malice or arrogance.

Respond

Responding takes work. It means we choose our attitudes and actions in a way that is measured and healthy. This is not what we want to due when we are wounded, but it is the best path forward. We cannot avoid pain and suffering in life. We can only control how we respond to it. Finding a good counselor helps with this. Here are a few things I find helpful to respond. First, it is ok to be hurt and angry. Those are not wrong emotions or unspiritual. Frankly, some wounds will not heal until heaven. Second, build a support structure and set healthy boundaries to weather the storm. Third, get help. Life is not mean to be done alone. You need cheerleaders who will champion and push you. Fourth, learn and process for next time. This helps you respond to the next challenge and not panic. The wound hurts when it is poked, but you are better ready to handle it. Even help others walk through it.

You will be tested

Life will test you. In the test you will find one of a few things. You will pass the test, and see how far you have grown. You will fail the test and see you need to grow. Most often, you see a little bit of both. The tests life throws at you help you to see growth and where to grow. When you respond to these tests you still get wounded, but you do not become defeated. Bitterness and resentment are cancers to your soul. They will wreck you. In reacting or repeating we want to protect ourselves, but healthy relationships require vulnerability and giving our trust. Living to be safe will also wreck you. Choose to respond, and in time you will start passing the tests. Even better, you will be able to cheerlead people through them.

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