If you're anything like me you think "I shouldn't have said that" frequently after responding to a situation. Yes, usually dripping in regret. Why can't I react slower to the jar of peanut butter falling of the counter as I am rushing to get the children out the door, instead of in haste and anger? Why is it when I am cut off by a semi traveling 70 MPH on the interstate on my way to a client meeting that I am running late for, that I catch my frustration after I have demonstrated my frustration? And why doesn't my brain thoroughly think through every possible word I bite back with before I blast it out of my mouth cloaked in a sarcastic robe of self righteousness when one of my children take a disrespectful tone? Are any of those correct responses too much too ask? I'm a work in progress that is for sure.
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9
There is no shortage of verses in dealing with how we are to respond to stressful situations. In Proverbs the word "fool" is used forty four times. Often in Scripture, a fool is associated with wickedness and a direct denial of God (e.g., in Psalm 53:1). Because God has infinite wisdom, the person who neglects God will naturally miss out on wisdom—he will become a fool. According to GotQuestions.com, "a fool is anyone who does not follow the warnings and commands of God. A fool lacks wisdom, has no concern for others, does not desire to avoid sin, and brags about his sinful actions." Ok, no bragging here about my poor response choices but it does make me wonder, can I learn to respond better? Is it my responsibility to improve my response ability?
When we consciously choose a response, rather than unconsciously react we demonstrate a level of self-control. Since self-control is one of the fruits of the spirit, let's park here for a moment.
It is important to understand that self-control is a work of the Holy Spirit, not a work of the individual. It is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that gives Christians the power and ability to exercise self-control so that we will not be mastered by our own responses and reactions. As Paul said, “God did not give us a Spirit of timidity, but a Spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
The next time you're tempted to react remember, there's power in a pause. Discipline yourself to take five seconds to hold your tongue, take a breath, think and pause and pray. We've all heard it said that we cannot control our situations but we can control our reactions to them. Being able to see a sudden happenstance from an emotionally controlled viewpoint is power and a gift to yourself. It allows us to respond appropriately, wisely. Coming out of an emotionally charged moment under control, and clear minded prevents relationships from being harmed, physical health to remain stable and our hearts to remain at peace. It allows our inner spirit a little glimpse of holiness, and allows our friend and helper the Holy Spirit to smile.