We’ve all experienced criticism, judgement or negative feedback. Honestly, I don’t really think it can be avoided. If you’ve been paying attention, it seems like there is a lot of hostility in the world today. The smallest things seem to set people off. People are suing each other left and right and fighting over the smallest things. Maybe it’s the hybridized food or chemicals, but it appears that people are experiencing huge reactions to very minor transgressions and situations. This world has gone plain crazy. But that doesn’t mean you have to go crazy right along with it.
There was a time when offensive comments and rude remarks would have caused me to come completely unglued. You could find me fully hunched over the keyboard, furiously punching out my response with all manner of huffy mumbling. I used to think it made me feel good to just get that last word in and have my say. In fact, I remember many times I would get so upset because my husband refused to answer me in those moments of frustration. He’d just sit there completely stoic, refusing to respond, knowing it would only encourage my manic, rambling behavior. Such wisdom he has. Give that man a pat on the back.
The truth is, no matter who does what or who is at fault, only YOU are responsible for your reaction. You absolutely cannot control anyone but yourself. You can’t control how other people treat you, what they say to (or about you), or the choices they make. You can, however, control how you respond to them.
If you’re a person who is easily provoked, chances are your response will not be good. Even if you currently have certain people in your life who seem to jump at the chance to provoke you and “push your buttons”, it’s important to remember that you’re not responsible for their actions – only your own. No buts.
So what are you going to do? To start off with, you’re going to need a strategy in dealing with people. You need something that you can refer back to in moments of possible distress and probable provocation. Face it, it’s going to happen. But now, you can be fully prepared with this “foolproof” strategy.
- Go cool off. Before you respond or refute, just take 10 minutes (or a few hours) and allow yourself to cool down. The extra time may allow you to see the situation from another angle or even to obtain counsel from a trusted friend. Oftentimes, I find that putting some distance between the offense and myself helps me calm down and think rationally of how to best handle it.
- Be slow to anger. “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” (Proverbs 15:18) If you’re easily provoked, your response will most likely be like adding fire to fire. It will very possibly do nothing more than stir up strife, conflict, disagreements, even anger and rage. When you make the decision to be slow to anger, you have the ability to actually calm disputes rather than “fan the flame.” The next time you’re approached with accusations and hostility, your choice in being slow to anger will actually remove the power out of their words.
- Rule your own spirit. “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” (Proverbs 16:32) When someone provokes you they’re expecting you to say something back. In short, they’re picking a fight. It’s what they want. When you react to them, you’re giving in and allowing them to be in control. Keep “the ball” in your court and rule your spirit! Be in control of your own thought, words, actions, and reactions.
- Overlook transgressions. “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11) What? It is your glory to overlook a transgression?? When someone wrongs you or hurts you…when they lash out at you or offend you, give them the benefit of the doubt. I’ll admit, that’s not always easy to do. But if you choose to overlook their transgression and forgive them, the Bible tells us it is our honor to do so.
- Examine your heart. “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” (Psalm 103:8) Remember when I told you to cool off for 10 minutes? Take that time to examine your heart. As Christians, our goal should be to attain the attributes of our Father. The Bible often recounts that He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. Ask yourself, “Am I compassionate? Am I gracious? Am I…slow to anger?”
Nobody is perfect and we all have room to improve (especially in this area). Asking yourself these questions, continually examining your heart, and creating a response strategy will be a major step forward in all your relationships.
We all want God’s compassion, grace, and mercy to be extended to us on a daily basis. We all want Him to be slow to anger with us in our many shortcomings and failures. So then, we should all strive to do the same for those around us. Seem difficult? Too much to ask? Trust me, if you ask Him, He’ll reveal the areas in your life where you can show more compassion or grace. (Be prepared for moments to arise in which you’ll need to exercise this!) 😉 But I do believe He will help you to rule your spirit and to respond with the grace He would have you to show.
A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” -Proverbs 15:1
In a world of seemingly overwhelming hostility and quick reactions, we could all use more grace and kindness. This simple strategy is absolutely vital to repairing and strengthening relationships with your friends, family, even co workers. In turn, I trust you will experience more grace, mercy and compassion in your own life.
Ask yourself, how different would our world be if everyone treated each other with more compassion? If we extended a hand of grace instead of offense? What if we stopped ourselves from immediately fighting back and just answered softly instead? If we’re honest with ourselves, we could all use a little more mercy, grace and compassion. We could all be slower to anger and more forgiving. So take a moment and share…maybe it’ll be just the strategy someone needs to make a huge difference.