Reacting vs. Responding....my conundrum of the day. And by 'day' I mean the past year and a half. I am discovering how different these two words truly are. But let me clarify my terms. I understand "reacting" to mean the quick, almost involuntary, elicited corresponding action to someone else's behavior. In contrast, I understand "responding" to mean the intentional and informed corresponding actions to someone else's behavior. As of late, I have been been confronted with the almost irresistible temptation to react instead of respond on several occasions, the first being a relational crisis between two girls and the second being an unfair (and untrue) rumor about my husband floating around, being perpetuated by church members no less. I have to confess that on the first occasion, I gave in and reacted based on the "crisis" and wound up tangled in misunderstandings. The second, I am still fighting off as we speak. In fact, this blog post is occupying my fingers so I don't dial the phone. There is nothing I would rather do more than react to these people's foolish (and sinful) behavior as quickly and thoroughly as possible, which would mean some seriously stern phone calls.
But I am checked in my spirit. I am learning (slowly but surely) that when I feel that irresistible, urgent, almost frantic need to react to someone's behavior, my motives are usually self-oriented and punitive in nature rather than other-focused and redemptive. If I am frantically searching the house for the phone and directory, trying desperately to find someone's number as quickly as possible, I am in serious danger of reacting instead of responding. Bummer, because reacting is so exciting and easy justified as the just, Christian, maybe even pastoral thing to do. Responding feels so sleepy and 'mature.'
Yesterday, I taught a membership class and we talked about Christian holiness. In discussing the topic, I use words like empowerment, obedience, restoration, and radical optimism and always sum it all up with the term 'lordship.' Who is in charge and who gets the final say? So I am convicted. Am I more anxious to react in order demonstrate my righteous indignation and exercise my pastoral authority than I am to wait, listen and respond in accordance with the voice of my Lord?
So, where do you stand on the issue? Is 'reacting' ever justified? How do we discern the appropriate times to react immediately as needed from the (likely more frequent) times when an intentional, prayerful, delayed response is more appropriate? And why on earth is reacting such a temptation??? Enlighten me folks.