We have often heard what is touted as The Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). Have you ever thought, though, that that includes not only our actions but our reactions to people, too? Have you ever had a situation in which you longed and hoped for the best-case reaction from someone(s) but, instead, got the absolute opposite?
- Instead of compassion, you were judged.
- Instead of mercy and forgiveness, you were rejected.
- Instead of support, you were abandoned.
Being truthful, coming clean, sharing our faults, shortcomings, vulnerabilities, or our need for help are often very difficult and even frightening. That fear is often built on the anticipation of a bad reaction from those to whom we must tell these things, and many of us have felt the pain of those fears realized at one time or another.
One of the most popular quotes over the past year (with over 51 million Google results and numerous memes floating about Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) is: “Be the person you needed when you were younger” (Ayesha A. Siddiqi). What would our world be like if we gave the reactions that we wished we had received in our difficult moments? Better yet, what if we gave responses instead of reactions? “To react” is defined by Merriam-Webster as action or feeling as a result of a stimulus or situation. “To respond” is defined by the same as giving an answer to something. The former implies a visceral outcome, built on emotion. The latter implies conscious effort and thought given before speaking or acting. Now, that is not say that ours will always be the response that the other person would expressly desire but, in taking time to think, there is less chance of us allowing our emotions to hold sway and cause us to be discourteous, dismissive of, or even cruel to others in their heavy moments.
What if we gave responses instead of reactions? What if we took the time to consider? To consider humanity, fallibility, and kindness. We can give compassion instead of judgement, mercy instead of rejection, and support instead of abandonment. How much better would our world be if we remembered the responses that we needed in our tough times and then gifted those responses to others? How many spirits might be spared, hearts edified, or even relationships saved? Taking a pause is not always easy to remember or to do but I dare say that it undoubtedly worth it.