Your Reactions-Who Is Controlling Them?

Rubber-Band

“The remarkable thing is I have a choice every day of what my attitude will be. I cannot change my past. I cannot change the actions of others. I cannot change the inevitable. The only thing I can change is attitude. Life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it.” ― Charles R. Swindoll

Multiple credible sources say that  life is 90% about our reactions. If that is so, we need to learn to react in ways that are beneficial. To do that we have to decide of time who we are. We have to be very sure and confident in both our heart and head, of who we are because reactions come from that deep place. When we have this kind of  confidence – we control our reactions and they become helpful.

Reactions may be flippant and short lived, or drawn out for months or years (as was mine in the story below). . . but the truth is a reaction comes from what we believe in our heart and head.

Years ago, I reacted to a friends cutting accusations by reeling in hurt for far too long. The truth was she had seen right through me, but my pride kept me from realizing it and owning up to what she was getting at. I had offered to help and it offended her greatly. She accused me of thinking she was inadequate. Her tone and choice of words were just plain mean, calling me names and such. It was true, I did see her as inadequate. But the truth is, I believe we are all inadequate in some way – that’s why God created us to live in community.  We are supposed to be there for each other and help each other where we are inadequate or weak.

I reacted with an uncalled for amount of  hurt. Had I been forthright and acknowledged the fact that she was right, that indeed I did see her as inadequate,  things would probably have played out better. But I shut down. Putting that into words was not something I was willing to try to do in the moment. It didn’t feel right to say and the last thing I wanted to do was respond to meanness with meanness. But shutting down did not help me! It hurt me tremendously! And I reeled in hurt for a long time.

She  attacked me when I was offering help. Instead of responding with acknowledging the truth that she so aptly exposed, I apologized – repeatedly – expecting to, in time, receive forgiveness. That never happened. Even upon my final apology, begging for forgiveness weeks later, she ridiculed me telling me I was acting like an adolescent. It was so very bizarre to me that a grown woman would choose to be so insulting.  But that is not the point. My reaction was weak – based on fear and insecurity. It was my reaction that caused me so much pain.  Had I been bold and chosen confidence, knowing my intentions were pure, her words would not have been able to penetrate my heart.

Since then I have learned that my reactions come from the belief about who I am. Like most people, I struggle with insecurity and fear, so I have to consciously choose an attitude of confidence and boldness. By confidently saying that I was sorry she was offended and boldly stating that my offer was motivated out of love and compassion, I could have avoided feeling so much pain. It was the attitude fear of insecurity that I chose that caused me to first, shut down,  and then be bitter for a while.

The feelings of woundedness and bitterness keep us down and prevent us from choosing healthy attitudes of  joy, thankfulness, boldness and confidence. As Swindoll says our attitude is something we can choose. If we can choose it, we can change it!  And boy does that change feel good!

Words Can Hurt But You Are Stronger #2

strong-armI ended my last post by saying, “Understanding the power I have to control which words I allow to affect me has been intriguing, freeing and empowering, both in the spiritual sense and in the physical sense.”  Oh to be free from the power of unkind words!  The great news is that once we deeply desire and long to rise above their power – we can!”

Living in the power of the Spirit means different things to different people.  To many the greatest power the Spirit offers is the expectation of the miraculous. I am not at all discounting this, however, if we fail to aknowleget the power of the Spirit in our daily lives we’ve missed out in a big way!  “Peace I leave with you.”  This is a gift!  A gift to be used and appreciated daily. Speaking of miraculous…. to actually receive that gift – a life of peace – would it not be miraculous for most of us? Sadly most refuse to accept it, choosing to dwell more often on Words That Hurt than on words with healing power. Yes, it takes effort. Nurturing and developing our gifts does take effort. . . I’m thinking about the really cool iPad accessories I got at Christmas that I opened, but have failed to learn how to use (sorry guys.) Funny thing is, they would be useful and appreciated if I put in the effort to learn how to use them.  

So we’ve been given this gift – peace.  Do we make use of it, appreciating what it can do for us? Or do we allow hurtful words that were said once to replay in our minds and hurt us a million times?

In the physical realm, I love the study of the brain.  Dr. Daniel Amen has  has proven that “negative thinking actually shuts down the coordination of our brain.”  Inferring that when we choose to dwell on hurtful words we cannot live out the potential we have.  That is quite sobering! You may have seen Dr. Amen on PBS or read some of his work.  He has all kinds of tips for fighting off hurtful words.  One that is easy to put into practice is “…bring your attention to the things you are grateful for in your life, your brain actually works better.”  This doctor actually looks at people’s brains and has done the research to substantiate this claim. Hmmm… “give thanks in all circumstances” seems like I’ve heard that somewhere before.  And to think… it’s for our own good!

If you have tips that help you fight off hurtful words, please share.  Your journey may help someone.

Words Can Hurt But You Are Stronger! #1

strong-armEven the strongest characters, occasionally have their hearts wounded by words that come at them like flaming arrows.  How is it that some seem to deflect these flaming arrows, on a regular basis, virtually unscathed while others seem to be shaped by them?

A popular theory is that if parents, teachers and friends are affirming and positive that a child, when grown, will be a strong, healthy individual with great self-esteem. In a way, I wish that were true, but it only takes a minute to think of people I know personally who have overcome a terrible childhood and because of it, are now armed with a shield that protects their heart. And then there are others, like me, who came to depend on those affirming words heard as a child in order to feel good about themselves and be strong in this world but ….when the apron strings were cut, I wasn’t so strong.  Certainly every child deserves to have adoring parents and granted, it does affect a child positively, but there are no guarantees as to how a a person will survive once in the real world.

I guess it’s best that way. It keeps us all in the same boat with equal opportunity to grow into the strength intended for each of us.  So how do we do that? The strength of the Spirit within each of us is the same, yet some of us hold onto this weakness with a mighty grip quenching what the Spirit in us longs to give. Why not let go of that grip and be free?

Just imagine wearing a shield that could deflect flaming arrows. Now imagine those arrows as carrying words that have hurt you – and still do hurt you.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have protection from them? What if the only words that could penetrate the shield were words of truth? Truth, truth and nothing but the truth.

Yeah, I admit sometimes the truth hurts too – but those are the words I want to embrace, even if they hurt.  Maybe I need to do something with them – like ask for forgiveness – or take action so they are not true any longer or just learn how think about them productively.  Where the truth gives life – embracing lies can be deadly. Hurtful words are most often lies and lies, when believed, can be deadly.  It’s truth that makes us light in the world. It’s truth that sets us free. Understanding the power I have to control which words I allow to affect me has been intriguing, freeing and empowering, both in the spiritual sense and in the physical sense.  Oh, it’s good to be free from the power of unkind words!