I have recently discovered a man named Viktor Frankl. If you don't know much about him, you will definitely want to read his harrowing story of liberation and mercy.
He was an Austrian psychiatrist, and also a concentration camp survivor. He absolutely LIVED the guts of forgiveness, as well as coming to terms with the meaningfulness of suffering.
So much light has come out of his experiences, but I have to say that this powerful statement was most relatable to me and my own personal penchant towards reactivity. He said "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." Wow!
I often react without thinking. I mean, if we're all really honest, most of us could agree with this. We tend to act out of our feelings more than we actually choose them. It is so powerful to be reminded that no matter the provocation, that the way we behave is our own personal responsibility. We don't need to be reflexive in our reactions. We need to pause and to make space to notice that we have the opportunity to choose differently - to choose wisely. Victor suggests that we can change and grow IF we can recognize, increase, and make use of this space. We can be our best IN SPITE of our inclinations.
In James 1:19 we are advised to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. If we follow these three steps in proper order, it becomes much easier to shut the door to our anger and fear, and to create new habits of response through grace and understanding.
Being quick to listen not only prevents disturbances from happening between brothers, but it helps us to hear the Lord speaking subtle truths to us. Truths that would tear down our tendencies to spew the first thoughts that pop in our minds. Being slow to speak will come easier when we are already in the mode of listening. It's much easier to be intentional with our words when we are in a posture of receiving. Finally, being slow to anger happens more naturally as we listen and quiet our insides. We tap into a deeper level of understanding and grace when we remove ourselves from instantaneous responses, and work through our emotions before we commit to any damaging actions.
Let's create space to consider who we would like to be. Let's think about the meaning of our reactions, or perhaps the origin of our go-to habits. Take a moment to think about the outcome of our reactions, then imagine a better response that incites peace. As we practice these pauses, we are rewiring our minds and emotions to fall into new and healthful habits, as well as growing and maturing into better people.
When the occasion arises, we can use prayer, meditation, and self-evaluation to respond intentionally, instead of reacting irrationally. When we take advantage of all of those spaces in between, we decide to live out of truth, and not out of our fears.
"What is to give light must endure burning."